MEDFORD – The Tufts volleyball team will head north to Bowdoin this weekend for the eight-team NESCAC Tournament Friday through Sunday. The Jumbos are the fifth seed and will take on fourth-seeded Middlebury on Friday at 8 pm in quarterfinal play.
The Jumbos finished the regular season with a 15-9 overall record and a 6-4 mark in conference games. In the month of October the Jumbos were 6-3 including wins over top regionally-ranked teams Springfield, MIT and Babson. Three of the Jumbos four losses to teams seeded higher than them in the conference tournament (Amherst, Bowdoin and Wesleyan) were closely contested five set matches that could have easily gone either way.
Having appeared in every NESCAC Tournament field since the tournament began in 1999, the Jumbos are seeking their first NESCAC Championship since 1996. The Jumbos finished as the conference runner-up three of the last four years.
Tufts traveled up to Middlebury earlier this year and the Panthers won, 3-1. Back in 2015 Middlebury was the fourth seed and Tufts was the fifth seed in the conference tournament and the Jumbos fell, 3-1. The Panthers have a 4-0 advantage in the post season series between the two teams.
Freshman Cate Desler is leading the Jumbos offensive attack with 2.70 kills per set, adding 2.14 digs per set and has a team-high 39 service aces. Senior co-captain Mackenzie Bright is helping with 2.41 kills per set and junior co-captain Maddie Stewart has been turning in 2.13 kills per set. Junior Brigid Bell has been helping the Jumbos offensively and defensively, averaging 1.78 kills per set, 2.37 digs per set and she has 33 aces. Junior middle blockers Heather Holz and Christina Nwankpa have also been big for the Jumbos. Nwankpa is turning in 1.77 kills per set and 0.77 blocks per set, while Holz is adding 1.52 kills per set and 0.61 blocks per set.
Defensively, sophomore libero Sophia Acker leads the efforts with 3.88 digs per set. Bell and Desler are next with 2.37 digs per set and 2.14 digs per set. But, junior Rachel Furash and freshman Ariel Zedric are also helping the defensive efforts with 1.67 digs per set and 1.55 digs per set, respectively. Furash and Zedric have been taking care of the setting, as Furash averages 7.06 assists per set and Zedric has been turning in 4.03 assists per set.
Bowdoin, the top seed in the tournament will face off with eighth-seeded Trinity on Friday at 5 pm and second-seeded Wesleyan plays No. 7 seed Bates in the other 5 pm match. Third-seeded Amherst takes on sixth-seeded Williams in the other 8 pm match. On Saturday the winner of the Bowdoin/Trinity match will take on the winner of the match between the Jumbos and the Panthers at 1 pm. At 3:30 pm the winner of the Wesleyan/Bates match plays the winner of the Amherst/Williams match. Saturday's winners play at noon on Sunday for the conference championship.