NESCAC Quarterfinal: No. 5 Tufts 3, No. 4 Middlebury 0

No. 5 Tufts swept No. 4 Middlebury to advance to the NESCAC Volleyball Championship Semifinals (Photo Credit: Brian Beard, CIPhotography)
No. 5 Tufts swept No. 4 Middlebury to advance to the NESCAC Volleyball Championship Semifinals (Photo Credit: Brian Beard, CIPhotography)

Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information

BRUNSWICK, Maine – For the first time in program history the Tufts volleyball team beat Middlebury in NESCAC Tournament play.  The fifth-seeded Jumbos downed the fourth-seeded Panthers, 3-0, on Friday night in NESCAC Quarterfinal play on the campus of Bowdoin College. 

With the win the Jumbos advance to take on top-seeded Bowdoin in the semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m.  The Jumbos were edged, 3-2, by the Polar Bears during regular season play.  Bowdoin beat eighth-seeded Trinity, 3-0, in quarterfinal play earlier on Friday. 

The first set on Friday night was the closest of the three, as the two teams traded points early, but the Panthers held on to a two-point lead for most of the first set. Down 18-16 the Jumbos took advantage of a couple of Panther setting errors and then got an ace from sophomore Sophia Acker and a kill from junior co-captain Maddie Stewart to take a 20-18 lead. The Panthers came back and tied the set at 21, and the two teams traded points.  With the score locked at 25 the Tufts got a kill from junior Christina Nwankpa and another Panther error gave the Jumbos a 27-25 win in set one. 

The Jumbos grabbed an early lead in the second set, leading by four, 8-4, early on.  Down 14-9 the Panthers got a kill from Isabel Sessions, and then a couple of Jumbo errors brought Middelbury within two, 14-12.  The Jumbos worked to push their lead back to four again, 20-16.  Middlebury climbed back within two, but ahead 22-20 Tufts took advantage of a Panther serving error. An ace from junior Rachel Furash and a kill from Stewart won the second set, 25-20.  

The two teams went back and forth to start the third set. With the set tied at 11 the Jumbos got two aces from junior Brigid Bell to take a 13-11 lead.  Tufts would not relinquish that lead the rest of the way, picking up a 25-17 win.  In the third set the Jumbos had just one attack error, 14 kills, and finished the set with a .520 hitting percentage.   

Bell finished with seven kills and seven digs for the Jumbos while first-year Cate Desler added seven kills and 13 digs. Stewart added six kills and five blocks. Junior Heather Holz, Nwankpa and senior co-captain Mackenzie Bright all added five kills each.  Holz and Bright each turned in three blocks, while Nwankpa was a force at the net, finishing with six total blocks. Acker added seven digs to the defensive efforts. First-year Ariel Zedric and Furash took care of the setting, finishing with 15 and 13 assists, respectively.  Furash also added four aces and Zedric helped with six digs. 

Sessions was the offensive leader for the Panthers finishing with eight kills, eight digs and four blocks. Sarah Staver and Maggie Wise each added seven kills. Gigi Alper led the defensive efforts, turning in 11 digs. Shea Golden and Chellsa Ferdinand both helped with nine digs each.  Ferdinand took care of the setting, finishing with 27 assists.