MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts University volleyball team utilized its depth, as nine players posted at least one kill during a 3-0 victory over Maine Maritime Academy in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday in front of a jam-packed crowd at Cousens Gym in Medford, Massachusetts.
"Obviously, we are excited," said Jumbos head coach Cora Thompson. "We played well as a group. We really wanted to control the pace of game from beginning to end and that was our challenge. Maine Maritime Academy is certainly aggressive and kept swinging hard. We had to play really great defense the whole entire time and really stay on our toes."
The Jumbos (25-3, 10-0 in NESCAC) will compete in second-round action against UMass-Boston Saturday at 4 p.m. in Cousens Gym. The Jumbos went undefeated during the regular season in NESCAC action for the first time since the 2008 season. The last time the Jumbos qualified for the NCAA Tournament was 2014, as they defeated Springfield College, 3-0, in the first round and then fell short, 3-1, against Clarkson University in the second round.
The Mariners (22-9, 7-0 in NAC) see their season come to an end, as they went undefeated in their conference slate this season and claimed a North Atlantic Conference Championship on Nov. 6 with a 3-1 victory over Colby-Sawyer College. This was the first time the Mariners qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2010.
The Jumbos were led by senior McKenzie Humann (six kills), freshman Brigid Bell (10 digs, four kills) and freshman Kelly Klimo (nine digs). For the Mariners, senior Gillian O'Neal and sophomore Tess Clark each posted eight kills. O'Neal broke the Mariners' program record for most kills in a season, as she posted 443 kills during her senior campaign.
The Jumbos did not waste any time making their presence felt, as they took an 11-5 lead on an ace by Bell. The Mariners responded with back-to-back points, as an ace by O'Neal trimmed the Jumbos lead to 11-7. A service point by junior captain Alexandra Garrett gave the hosts a 20-9 lead, as the Jumbos eventually claimed the first set, 25-14.
The Jumbos kept the momentum going in the second set, as they raced out to a 7-1 advantage on a kill by Bell. Sophomore Angela Yu posted a game-clinching service point, as the Jumbos took the second set, 25-8.
The Mariners fought to the end, as O'Neal posted a kill and then Clark tallied a service point, which gave the Mariners an 11-10 lead in the third set. The Jumbos answered the bell, as they embarked on a 15-6 run to win the third set, 25-17. Freshman Maddie Stewart posted the match-clinching kill.
The last time the Jumbos hosted a regional of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament was in 2009, when they won the regional and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championship. The Jumbos also hosted the eight-team regional tournament in 2008, as they earned a victory in the first round and then fell short in the second round.
"I think that the energy of our team is a huge part of our game, and obviously a lot of that comes from just the six people on the court," said senior captain Elizabeth Ahrens. "Having fans at our games totally changes the dynamic, and makes us so much more hyped. It is so exciting. We love it when people come to our games."