Jumbos Edged by Top-Seeded Bowdoin in NESCAC Semifinal Play Saturday

BRUNSWICK, Maine – The fifth-seeded Tufts volleyball team put up quite a fight, but they weren't able to knock off top-seeded Bowdoin, falling to the Polar Bears in five sets on Saturday afternoon in NESCAC Semifinal play. 

Maddie Stewart finished with a team-high 13 kills Saturday

The Jumbos won the second and third sets, but they weren't able to close it out in the fourth or fifth and fell, 25-22, 20-25, 13-25, 25-21, 15-9.  Tufts is now 16-10 overall this season.  Bowdoin improves to 26-1 and will face off with the winner of the match between Amherst and Wesleyan for the conference title on Sunday at noon.  

The two teams battled to start the first set, and it was tied ten times early on.  With things locked at 14 the Polar Bears got a kill from Sydney Salle and then double bock from Cory Gray and Kate Kiser put them ahead 16-14.  After a Tufts timeout, Bowdoin scored two more points thanks to kills from Caroline Flaharty and Kiser to take an 18-14 lead.  Down 23-17 the Jumbos made a comeback getting a kill from junior Brigid Bell, followed by kills from freshman Cate Desler, junior co-captain Maddie Stewart and another from Desler brought the Jumbos within two, 23-21.  But the Polar Bears stopped the scoring streak with a kill from Ashley Williams, and then a kill from Sophia Pahl gave them a 25-22 win in set one. 

The Jumbos jumped out to an early lead in set two. Ahead 11-7 the Jumbos got a kill from junior Christina Nwankpa, followed by a couple of Bowdoin errors and then an ace from junior Rachel Furash put them ahead by eight, 15-7.  The Polar Bears would fight back and get within three, but Tufts held on to take the second set 25-20.  

Once again, the Jumbos grabbed an early lead in the third set.  Ahead 9-5 they outscored the Polar Bears 7-2 over the next few points to take a 15-7 lead. They cruised on to a 25-13 win in set three to take a 2-1 advantage in the match.  

It was Bowdoin that took an early lead in the fourth set.  Down 12-7 the Jumbos got a kill from Bell, followed by a couple of Bowdoin errors and a kill from Stewart that put them within one, 12-11.  But the Polar Bears then went on a scoring streak of their own, outscoring the Jumbos 6-1 over the next seven points to take an 18-12 lead.  Behind 23-17 Tufts once again made a comeback with three kills from Nwankpa, a kill from Desler and a couple of Bowdoin errors to come within three, 24-21. But, a kill from Flaharty gave Bowdoin the 25-21 win in set four to even the match at two sets each. 

The two teams traded points to start the fifth set.  With things tied at six the Polar Bears took advantage of a Jumbo service error, followed by an ace from Gray. After a Jumbo point thanks to a kill from sophomore Jennifer Ryan, the Polar Bears took advantage of two Jumbo errors to take a 10-7 lead.  They were able to hold off the Jumbos for a 15-9 win in set five to take the match. 

The Jumbos had four players with double digit kills.  Stewart had a team high 13 and added eight digs and a couple of blocks.  Desler finished with 12 kills and 16 digs while Nwankpa added 12 kills and four blocks.  Bell helped with 10 kills and 17 digs.  Ryan added seven kills and five blocks, and junior Heather Holz added four kills and eight blocks to the day.  Defensively, sophomore Sophia Acker was the leader with 19 digs.  Junior Rachel Furash and freshman Ariel Zedric each added 11 digs to the match.  Furash and Zedric took care of the setting, finishing with 31 and 18 assists, respectively. 

For the Polar Bears Williams and Pahl each finished with 13 kills, and Pahl added 14 digs.  Flaharty turned in 12 kills and 16 digs.  Gray added five kills and seven blocks and Salle contributed nine kills.  Defensively, Lisa Sheldon collected 29 digs and Emily King helped with 17 of her own.  Kiser ran the offense, finishing with 46 assists.  

The loss wraps up the 2018 season for the Jumbos. Bowdoin is back in action on Sunday when they play for a conference title at noon.