NESCAC Volleyball Championship Heads to Tufts

NESCAC Volleyball Championship Heads to Tufts

HADLEY, Mass. - Tufts closed out the final weekend of the regular season with a sweep of Connecticut College to wrap up the No. 1 seed and earn the right to host the NESCAC Volleyball Championship at Cousens Gymnasium on November 4, 5 and 6. Quarterfinal round action is slated to get underway on Friday, November 4 at 5 p.m. Semifinal matches will be played on Saturday, November 5 followed by the championship match on Sunday, November 6.

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Tufts (22-2, 10-0 NESCAC) is hosting the championship for the second time in three years and is the top seed for the fourth time in since 2000. The Jumbos are seeking their first conference title since 1996. Tufts posted a 10-0 mark in league play for the second time in program history and is the first NESCAC team to go unbeaten in conference action since Williams went undefeated in 2013. The Jumbos own one of the best offenses in the league, averaging 12.26 kills per set and rank second in blocks at 2.02 per set. Senior Elizabeth Aherns (Richmond, Va.) leads Tufts with a .385 hitting percentage against conference foes. She is also contributing 2.18 kills per set in NESCAC action. Rookie Kelly Klimo (North Canton, Ohio) and senior MaKenzie Humann (Lakewood, Colo.) anchor the Tufts defense. Klimo is averaging 4.41 digs per set, while Humann is registering 1.09 blocks per set. The Jumbos will face eighth-seed Connecticut College (11-11, 4-6 NESCAC). The two teams met in the last match of the regular season with Tufts posting a 3-0 win.  The Camels are making their 12th straight postseason appearance, but first as the No. 8 seed. Connecticut College will be looking for its first postseason win since 2012. Senior Ella Johnson (Seal Beach, Calif.) leads the Camels’ attack with a .281 hitting percentage. Sophomore Jenny Kellogg (Los Altos, Calif.) is averaging 2.56 kills per set, while junior Sam Hunter (Palos Verdes, Calif.) is collecting 3.34 digs per set. The two teams last met in the postseason in 2013 with the Jumbos winning in five sets. Tufts is 2-1 against the Camels in championship play. 

Middlebury (15-8, 7-3 NESCAC) is the second seed for the first time since 2013 and is seeking its first appearance in the finals since 2012. The Panthers have advanced to the semifinals four times in the last six years, including last season. Middlebury is the top blocking team in the league, averaging 2.32 blocks per set, and led by the duo of senior Melanie English (Montgomery Village, Md.) (1.07 per set) and sophomore Sarah Staver (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) (1.14 per set). Staver also ranks second in hitting (.341) in NESCAC matches. The Panthers will meet seventh-seeded Bates (11-13, 5-5 NESCAC) for the second time in a week. Middlebury faced the Bobcats in the regular season finale, Bates came away with a 3-1 victory. The Bobcats are making back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 2003-04. Bates owns a 3-0 record against Middlebury in NESCAC Championship play. The teams last met in the postseason during the 2003 quarterfinals with Bates sweeping the Panthers. Senior Chandler McGrath (Seal Beach, Calif.) is the team leader kills (3.44 per set) and owns a .227 hitting percentage. First-year Gabi Eustache (New York, N.Y.) is a top defender for the Bobcats and ranks third in the NESCAC with 4.88 digs per set.

Amherst (16-8, 7-3 NESCAC) is the third seed for the fourth straight season. The Purple & White have moved on to the semifinals every time they have been the No. 3 seed and are looking to advance to the championship match for the first time since 2008. Amherst owns one of the best back lines in the conference, averaging 18.87 digs per set as a team and is led by sophomore Hayes Honea’s (Redondo Beach, Calif.) 5.78 digs per set. The Purple & White defense is bolstered by the junior blocking duo of Annika Reczek (Miami, Fla.) and Marialexa Natsis (Los Angeles, Calif.). They rank 5-6 in the conference stats at 0.99 and 0.85 blocks per set, respectively. The Purple & White will face No. 6 Wesleyan (15-7, 6-4 NESCAC), who is in the postseason for the first time since 2010 and tripled its win total from last year. Amherst defeated Wesleyan in five sets in the regular season finale to snap the Cardinals’ five-match win streak. Wesleyan has relied on its youth. First-year outside hitters Nicole Hilton (Wantagh, N.Y.) (.326) and Gabby Bennett (Chicago, Ill.) (.293) lead the team in hitting percentage. Hilton also leads the team in blocks (0.91 per set) while fellow rookie Olivia Guidotti (Orinda, Calif.) is the team leader in digs (3.93).

Bowdoin (14-9, 6-4 NESCAC), the defending NESCAC Champion, is the fourth seed and will meet No. 5 Williams (13-10, 6-4 NESCAC) in a rematch of last year’s championship match. The Polar Bears are making their 11th straight postseason appearance and have been in the finals three times in the last five years, twice meeting up with Williams. Bowdoin enters the tournament coming off a pair of sweeps and has proven to be a well-rounded team. The Polar Bears lead the league in kills (13.44 per set) and digs (19.37 per set). Senior setter Quincy Leech (Durham, N.C.) leads the conference in assists (9.72 per set), while senior Katie Doherty (Menlo Park, Calif.) is averaging a league-high 6.31 digs per set. The 2016 championship marks the first time since 2012 the Ephs have not been one of the top two seeds in the NESCAC Championship. Williams has advanced to the semifinals 14 of the last 15 years and has appeared in three straight championship matches. The Ephs posted a 3-2 win over Bowdoin when the two teams met during the regular season on September 17. Senior outside hitter Tori Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) leads the Ephs. She is averaging a conference-best 3.86 kills per set and ranks seventh in the league in digs (4.39 per set). First-year Alex Newton (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) is one of the top setters in the league this season, averaging 8.77 assists per set.

All matches will be webcasted by the Northeast Sports Network (NSN) at nsnsports.net/conferences/nescac. Results for the NESCAC Volleyball Championship will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website.