MEDFORD - The Tufts University volleyball program had four members honored when the 2017 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Region teams were announced recently.
Junior Mackenzie Bright, sophomore Heather Holz and sophomore Christina Nwankpa were among the 14 players named to the AVCA All-Northeast Region team for 2017. The three players recognized is tied for the most in the Northeast. Jumbo head coach Cora Thompson was also the organization's Northeast Coach of the Year for the second straight season.
These are the first AVCA All-Region honors for the players. With their inclusion on the All-Region Team, each is now eligible for All-American consideration. Bright and Coach Thompson also received New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) All-Conference honors earlier this month.
No one played more sets than the 112 Bright appeared in for the Jumbos while seeing action in all 30 matches. She topped 300 kills this season (306) for a 2.73 kills per set average. Bright reached double figures in kills 15 times, including 18 at Amherst on October 6 and 17 at Bowdoin on September 19.
Sophomores Holz and Nwankpa both emerged as forces in the middle this fall. They were second and third in the NESCAC for blocks per set, respectively. Holz finished the season with 102 blocks (20 solo) in 105 sets for a 0.97 average. She also led the league in hitting percentage at .332 with 182 kills and 41 errors in 425 attempts. She added 35 service aces, which were a top-10 NESCAC number. Holz had an impressive nine-block match against Wisconsin-Oshkosh at the Barker Chevrolet Classic II hosted by Illinois Wesleyan on September 23. She recorded 12 kills twice this season including at Wesleyan on October 28.
Nwankpa played in all 30 matches (110 sets) and finished with 106 total blocks for a 0.96 per-set average. Her 84 block assists led the conference. She hit fourth in NESCAC with a .326 percentage after recording 205 kills with 65 errors on 430 swings. She also had a nine-block night at Bowdoin on September 19, including four solos. Her season-high in kills was also 12, which she hit twice including versus Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Coach Thompson directed the Jumbos to their second straight 10-0 season in NESCAC this fall. Tufts earned the #1 seed and hosted the conference championship. The Jumbos finished as the NESCAC runner-up, then earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. Tufts advanced to the Regional semi-finals before ending their season with a 23-7 record. Coach Thompson, in her 15th season, adds this second-straight Regional honor to her six-time NESCAC Coach of the Year status.
With her AVCA Regional and conference honors, Thompson has earned two of five Coach of the Year awards given to Jumbo programs this fall. Soccer coaches Josh Shapiro (men's) and Martha Whiting (women) were also NESCAC Coaches of the Year. Women's Cross Country's Kristen Morwick was voted US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association New England Coach of the Year.