With an experienced roster that returns all except two players from last season, the Tufts University women's volleyball team looks to be a contender in New England this fall.
The Jumbos were outstanding at times last season, including winning the New England Challenge with victories against regionally-ranked teams Springfield, Babson and MIT. However, their season was derailed by a few dramatic five-set conference losses to Amherst, Wesleyan and Bowdoin twice, including in the conference semifinals. Tufts finished 2018 at 16-10 overall and 6-4 in the conference for fifth place.
The returnees are led by seniors Heather Holz and Maddie Stewart and sophomore Cate Desler, who were post-season honors recipients last year. Holz, a 6-foot middle, was picked All-New England by both the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) and the New England Women's Volleyball Association (NEWVA). She was also All-NESCAC second team. Desler, a 6-1 outside hitter, was NESCAC and NEWVA Rookie of the Year last season while receiving second team and honorable mention honors from those two organizations, respectively. Stewart, a 5-11 outside hitter, was on the NESCAC second team.
Desler led Tufts with 268 kills while compiling a .247 hitting percentage. She also led Tufts with 41 service aces and added 2.27 digs per set. Holz was sixth in NESCAC with her .295 hitting percentage while averaging 0.68 blocks. Stewart topped 200 kills with a .260 percentage.
Senior Christina Nwankpa, who led Tufts with 0.80 blocks per set last year, is another key returnee at the net. Classmate Brigid Bell is a strong contributor offensively and defensively. The Jumbos also have starting setter Rachel Furash and digs leader Sophia Acker returning.
Led by their upperclassmen - six seniors and three juniors – as well as having one of the best young players in the league in Desler, the Jumbos look to have the experience to overcome the inconsistency that hampered them on occasion last fall. Tufts is receiving votes in the AVCA preseason national poll, a nod to the amount of talent they have returning.
Head Coach Cora Thompson discusses the 2019 season ...