MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – In a NESCAC volleyball showdown Saturday between the league's top two teams, Tufts University prevailed over Wesleyan University, 3-1 (19-25, 25-18, 27-25, 25-20) to take the regular-season title. With the win, the Jumbos (20-5, 10-0 NESCAC) claim the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC Championships and will host the tournament Friday, Nov. 3 through Sunday, Nov. 5. Despite the loss, the Cardinals put together one of their best regular seasons in program history and clinched the No. 2 seed for the first time since 2008 and third time overall. Wesleyan is now 18-5 on the season and 8-2 in league play.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- The Cardinals came out hot to start the match and jumped out to a 10-3 lead. Tufts got within three, 16-13, but it was all Wesleyan from the beginning as the home team never trailed and a 3-1 run down the stretch sealed the 25-19 victory.
- It was a different story in the second set, however, as the Jumbos claimed a commanding 17-6 advantage. A kill from Nicole Hilton '20 got the Cardinals within five (19-14) but that would be the closest they'd get the rest of the way as the deficit proved to be too much and Tufts took the game, 25-18.
- The third game was a thrilling back-and-forth contest with the largest lead of the set being a three-point differential when a kill from Christina Nwankpa put Tufts on top, 19-16. Wesleyan rallied with three consecutive points capped off by a kill from Gabby Bennett '20 to even the set. After both teams exchanged points and a kill from Hilton gave the home team a 25-24 advantage, the Jumbos went on a 3-0 run to take the game and claim a 2-1 lead in the match.
- Trailing 6-3 in the fourth, five consecutive points by the Cardinals gave the home squad an 8-6 advantage. However, Tufts responded shortly after with an 8-1 run to go ahead 18-12. A kill by Stasie Litinsky '20 down the stretch cut the deficit to three (23-20) but back-to-back points by the Jumbos won the game and match.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Harper Graves '21 led all players with 15 kills and Hilton joined her in double-figures with 13. Kaira Muraoka-Robertson '20 and Grace Rose '21 dished out 22 assists each, while Rose added a team-high 17 digs. Phia Bellizzi '21 added 15 and Robi Frederick '21 totaled 10.
- Four players recorded double-digit kills for Tufts, led by Heather Holz with 12, while Brigid Bell, Mackenzie Bright, and Maddie Stewart each totaled 11. Rachel Furash tallied 25 assists and Angela Yu added 23. Defensively, Kelly Klimo posted a match-high 25 digs and Bell added 14.
- The Cardinals will play in the NESCAC Quarterfinals at Tufts Friday, November 3 against seventh-seeded Williams. The match is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.