Jumbos Outlast Polar Bears in Five Set Volleyball Thriller Tuesday Evening

MEDFORD – After falling in extra points in the first set the Tufts volleyball team rallied to win the next two and an eventual fifth set to top Bowdoin on the road on Tuesday night. Sophomore Brigid Bell and junior Mackenzie Bright combined for 31 kills for the Jumbos. 

Kelly Klimo turned in double-digit digs for the 6th time this year

With the win the Jumbos improve to 6-1 overall this year and a perfect 3-0 in NESCAC play.  The loss is the third of the year for Bowdoin, but the first in NESCAC play, as they own a 5-3 overall mark with a 2-1 conference record. 

The Polar Bears jumped out to an early lead in the first set and would hold on to that until the Jumbos tied things at nine.  The two teams traded points for the duration of the match, as no team led the other by more than a point until things were locked at 24. Two Jumbo errors gave the Polar Bears the 26-24 win in the first set.

In the second set things were close to start.  The Polar Bears took a slight advantage 14-11 about halfway through the set.  But, the Jumbos scored five points behind the serve of Heather Holz to take the lead back. With the Jumbos up 24-19 the Polar Bears refused to quit, but thanks to a service error the Jumbos came away with the 25-22 win in set two. 

Bowdoin took the lead in the third set, but once again the Jumbos rallied behind the serve of Holz to go from trailing (7-9) to ahead 11-9.  Bright turned in three kills during that span to help the Jumbos take the lead back, and it was a lead they held onto for the duration of the set, finally winning, 25-19.  

The Polar Bears once again took a lead in the fourth set and were up by seven points 12-5 at one point.  This time the serve of sophomore Rachel Furash proved to be the spark plug, as the Jumbos scored six points to come within two 13-11.  After trading points for a bit, the Jumbos tied things at 14 and then actually led by a point for a bit.  But, with things tied at 17 the Polar Bears got hot and scored five points behind the serve of Katie Kiser and took a 22-18 lead. The Jumbos would come within one, but they weren't able to convert on that final point, falling 25-23 in the fourth set to even the match at two.

The two teams traded points to start the fifth set.  With things locked at five the Jumbos scored six points behind sophomore Maddie Stewart's serve, three off those points coming from kills from Bell, to help the Jumbos take an 11-5 lead. That deficit proved to be more than the Polar Bears could handle, as the Jumbos won in the fifth set 15-9. 

Bright finished with 17 kills for the Jumbos and Bell added 14 kills and 15 digs.  Stewart added nine kills to the evening and Holz had six of her own.  Holz and classmate Christina Nwankpa were a force at the net, as Holz finished with six blocks and Nwankpa an impressive nine.  Sophomore Kelly Klimo turned in 24 digs and Furash and senior Alex Garrett each added ten digs to the evening.  Furash took care of the setting for the Jumbos, finishing the evening with 45 assists, while also adding five kills in nine attempts for a .444 hitting percentage. 

Caroline Flaharty was the offensive leader for the Polar Bears, finishing with 15 kills.  Sydney Salle helped with ten and Khelsea Gordon added seven.  Lisa Sheldon finished with 23 digs and Flaharty had 15.  Gordon turned in eight blocks. Kiser ran the offense, finishing with 42 assists. 

The Jumbos head to Illinois Wesleyan this weekend for the Barker Chevorlet Classic II.  They take on Washington (Mo.) and Millikin on Friday at 4 pm and 8 pm, respectively.   The Polar Bears head to Kentucky for the Transylvania Invitational as they open play against Heidelberg on Friday at 5 pm.