NESCAC Final: No. 2 Wesleyan 3, No. 1 Tufts 1

NESCAC Final: No. 2 Wesleyan 3, No. 1 Tufts 1

Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information

MEDFORD, Mass. - The Wesleyan volleyball team won its first-ever NESCAC Championship on Saturday as the second-seeded Cardinals rallied from a 1-0 deficit to defeat top-seeded Tufts University 3-1 by scores of 22-25, 25-23, 25-17, 25-14. With the win, the Cardinals automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament and make their second appearance all-time in the postseason championship and first since 2001.

The Cardinals avenged its loss to Tufts from a week ago and snapped a 12-match losing streak against the Jumbos which dates back to 2007. The win also improves Wesleyan's record to an 21-5 mark while Tufts drops to 22-6.

Sophomore Brigid Bell finished with a 12 kills and 11 digs, but it wasn't enough as the first seeded Tufts Volleyball team fell to second seeded Weslseyan in the NESCAC Final on Sunday afternoon in Cousens Gym.  The NESCAC Championship is a program first for Wesleyan.

The Jumbos are now 22-6 and will wait to see if they are granted an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Wesleyan is 21-5 and receives the conference automatic bid and will await NCAA Regional seedings. 

Tufts came out strong and won the first set, 25-22.  The Jumbos picked up ten blocks in the first set as Maddie Stewart had six of her own. Tufts took an early lead, but Wesleyan tied things at 22-22. Kills from Christina Nwankpa and Heather Holz combined with a Wesleyan error led to the win for Tufts.

The Cardinals took the lead in the second set, but the Jumbos tied things at 9-9 and again at 19-19. Wesleyan took the lead behind a kill from Madeleine Lundberg and the Cardinals held on to that advantage to win the second set, 25-23.

Wesleyan kept the momentum an led 7-1 early in the third set, 7-1. The Jumbos climbed back within two, 11-9, but that would be as close as they would get as Wesleyan took the third set, 25-17.  

In the fourth set, the Jumbos took control early, but the Cardinals tied set at five and again at 11-11. A Jumbo error and kills from Nicole Hilton, Lundberg and Harper Graves gave the Cardinals a lead and they won the fourth set, 25-14. 

Hilton was the offensive leader for the Cardinals with 13 kills as Graves finished with 12 and Lundberg tallied 11.  Defensively, Phia Bellizzi totaled 19 digs and Lundberg helped with 17.  Hilton also added five blocks to her day. Kaira Muraoka-Robert took care of the setting for the Cardinals, finishing with 42 assists.  

Brigid Bell was the offensive leader for the Jumbos with 12 kills and Stewart added ten, while Holz finished with eight. Kelly Klimo led the defensive efforts with 19 digs and junior Angela Yu added 12.  Stewart finished with ten blocks and Nwankpa added six while Holz tallied five.  Yu and sophomore Rachel Furash took care of the setting, finishing with 21 and 18 assists, respectively.

The Cardinals will find out where they are playing and the Jumbos will find out if they receive a bid to the tournament during the NCAA Selection Show, which is at 12:30 pm on Monday.