Volleyball Season Comes to Close With 3-2 Setback to MIT at NCAA Regional

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Tufts volleyball team was a point away from beating MIT in the fourth set, but the Engineers staged a comeback and won the deciding fifth set to knock the Jumbos out of the NCAA Regional Tournament at Johnson and Wales on Saturday afternoon.  

Brigid Bell helped the Jumbos with 18 kills and 17 digs on Saturday

The Jumbos season comes to an end with 23-7 record.  MIT is now 30-2 and will take on Johnson and Wales on Sunday with the winner advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  

The Engineers picked up a win in the first set, as they jumped out to an early lead and were leading by as many as five early on.  The Jumbos tied things at 12 thanks to a couple of kills from sophomore Maddie Stewart and a kill from junior Mackenzie Bright. The two teams would trade the lead a bunch for the duration of the set, but with things locked at 21 the Engineers got a kill from Abby Bertics to take the lead and they managed a 25-23 win in set one. 

The Jumbos evented the match with a win in set two. They took the early lead and led by eight early on as they scored five straight points behind the serve of sophomore Rachel Furash to take the 10-2 lead. The Jumbos dominated most of the rest of the set and picked up the 25-13 win in set two to even the match at one. 

The next two sets needed extra points to decide a winner. The third set was as close as it could be, as the two teams traded the lead for the entire set and no team ever led by more than two points. The score was tied at 26 when the Jumbos got a kills from junior Angela Yu and sophomore Christina Nwankpa to pick up the 28-26 win in set three to take a 2-1 lead in the match. 

The fourth set would need even more points to determine a winner.  MIT grabbed the early lead and they held on to that for a good portion of the set.  The Jumbos tied things at 18.  The match was tied seven more times before the two teams were able to find a winner.  The Engineers and Jumbos both had match point late in the set, but with things locked at 28, kills from Abby Bertics and Alli Davanzo gave the Engineers a 30-28 win in the fourth set to even the match at two. 

In the decisive fifth set the Engineers carried the momentum they had from the fourth set over, and took an early lead in the fifth set.  The Jumbos tied it at seven, but the Engineers took the lead right back thanks to a couple of Jumbo errors.  The Engineers secured a 15-10 win in the ffth set to take the match, 3-2. 

Sophomore Brigid Bell led the Jumbos offense with 18 kills and she also added 17 digs to her day.  Stewart collected 13 kills and junior Mackenzie Bright and Nwankpa both added nine kills each.  Sophomore Heather Holz finished with six kills and five blocks and freshman Jennifer Ryan added six kills and four blocks.  Sophomore Kelly Klimo led the Jumbos defensive efforts with 20 digs.  Yu and Furash took care of the setting for the Jumbos, finishing with 34 and 24 assists, respectively. 

Bertics led the Engineer offense with 31 kills and Davanzo added 16 to the day.  Davanzo added five blocks, Bertics five and Carly Staub finished the match with six blocks. Defensively the Engineers had five different players with double digit digs as Carly Silvernale picked up 16, Lisette Tellez 14, Madison Lee 13 and both Bertics and Andie Maloney each added ten.  Maloney ran the Engineer offense, finishing the match with 63 assists. 

The Engineers and the Jumbos played earlier this year, and the Jumbos managed a 3-1 win out at the New England Challenge at Williams.  Tufts hosted an won the NCAA Regional last year, advancing to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2009.  This was their third consecutive NCAA appearance, and the Jumbos graduate just one player from their 2017 roster.