Volleyball Suffers Heartbreaking Five-Set NCAA Regional Loss to Bowdoin

MEDFORD – The Tufts volleyball team lost a heartbreaking fifth set to Bowdoin on Saturday afternoon in NCAA Regional second round play in Cousens Gym.  The match was a rematch of the NESCAC Championship which the Jumbos won in five sets last weekend. 

Cate Desler finished with 15 kills, 11 digs, four aces and four blocks

The Polar Bears (20-7) advance to the Regional Final with the 3-2 win over the Jumbos where they will play Johnson & Wales on Sunday at 2 pm for a chance to go to the Elite Eight in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  The Jumbos see their season come to a close with a 28-2 overall record. 

The Jumbos came out of the gates on fire and scored the first seven points of the first set with senior Rachel Furash serving.  Four of those points were service aces. The Polar Bears weren't able to gain any momentum, and fell in the first set 25-14. 

Bowdoin took the early lead in the second set.  With the score locked at three the Polar Bears got behind the serve of Emily King to score seven straight and take a 9-3 lead.  Down 13-7 the Jumbos got a couple of kills from freshman Jennelle Yarwood.  After a Polar Bear error, senior Christina Nwankpa added a kill and then another ace from Furash brought the Jumbos within one, 13-12. But Bowdoin took advantage of a couple of Jumbo errors and got kills from Caroline Flaharty and Ashley Williams to take an 18-12 lead.  They won the second set 25-16. 

The Polar Bears were ahead early in the third set, 11-4.  The Jumbos got behind the serve of sophomore Cate Desler and scored six straight to come within one, 11-10.  Bowdoin increased their lead to four, 15-11, but the Jumbos climbed back in and tied things at 17 and then took their first lead of the set, 18-17, thanks to a Bowdoin error.  The Jumbos then took a lead of their own, but Bowdoin tied things at 22.  The two teams traded points and with the score locked at 25 the Jumbos got a kill from Nwankpa and then a kill from Desler for a 27-25 win in the third set to take a 2-1 advantage. 

The two teams traded points to open the fourth set.  With the score locked at five Bowdoin took advantage of a couple of Jumbo errors and got a kill from Allyson Hawkins to take an 8-5 lead.  They slowly grew that lead for the rest of the set, and picked up a 25-15 win in the fourth set to tie the match at two. 

The Jumbos scored the first five points of the fifth set.  Down 7-3 the Polar Bears got kills from Flaharty, Hawkins and Jaida Hodge-Adams to come within two, 8-6.  Hawkins then turned in an ace, and a kill from Flaharty tied things at eight.  Another ace from Hawkins put the Polar Bears ahead, 9-8.  The two teams traded points and down 13-11 the Jumbos forced two Polar Bear errors that tied things at 13.  With the score locked at 13 the Polar Bears got kills from Hawkins and Williams to clinch the 15-13 win in the fifth set. 

Desler led the Jumbos with 15 kills and 11 digs and also added four blocks and four aces. Nwankpa finished with 12 kills and four blocks.  Junior Jennifer Ryan added 11 kills and three blocks.  Defensively, freshman Stephanie Lee turned in 28 digs and also added three aces.  Senior Rachel Furash added 12 digs and six aces.  Furash and sophomore Ariel Zedric took care of the setting, with Furash tallying 30 assists and Zedric adding 12.  

Flaharty led the Polar Bears with 20 kills and 16 digs.  Williams finished with 12 kills, and Hawkins added ten kills, nine digs and four blocks.  Cori Gray turned in nine kills and five blocks.  Defensively, Emily King collected 22 digs while Ella Haugen added 18.  Haugen and Kate Kiser took care of the setting, with Haugen tallying 26 assists and Kiser finishing with 19. 

The Polar Bears will face off with Johnson and Wales at 2 pm in the Regional Final in Cousens Gym on Sunday afternoon.


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