Junior hitter Hayler Hopper had a season-high 20 kills
MEDFORD - Tufts and Middlebury battled for five sets before the Jumbos came away with a 3-2 win at Cousens Gym and kept hold of fourth place in the NESCAC.
The visiting Panthers (13-5, 2-5 NESCAC) took a 2-1 lead after three sets, only to see the Jumbos come back and take the last two sets and win their second straight conference match.
In the fourth set Tufts (14-7, 6-3 NESCAC) took the biggest lead of the set at 18-14 on a kill by junior Isabel Kuhel (Brisbane, CA). Middlebury came back behind three kills by Amy Hart to take a 21-20 lead. Consecutive service aces by the Panthers' Olivia Kolodka regained the lead for them at 25-24. Junior hitter Hayley Hopper (Carlsbad, CA) responded with two of her nine kills in the set sandwiched around a hitting error by Middlebury that gave the Jumbos the 27-25 win and evened the match at 2-2.
The fifth set saw the Jumbos put it away with a 10-0 run that gave them a 14-4 lead. Hopper served nine straight points with one ace. Kyra Baum (Boca Raton, FL) and Kuhel combined on two blocks to aid the decisive run. A kill by Kolodka ended the Tufts run. An attack error by Tufts made it 14-6 and the match winner came on a service error by Middlebury.
Middlebury's Hart paced the Panthers attack with 19 kills. She had at least four in each of the first four sets, but was blanked in the fifth set. She also added a team-high 14 digs. Megan Jarchow added 12 kills for the Panthers. Hannah Blackburn had 39 assists and three aces, wWhile Kolodka added nine kills and had five of the teams 15 aces.
Hopper led the Jumbos with a season-high 20 kills. She hit.400 over the last two sets going 12-2-25 (K-E-TA). Sophomore setter Baum had 38 assists, 18 digs and five blocks. Kuhel added six kills and seven blocks, two solo. Carolina Berger (Fort Lauderdale, FL) had a team-high 22 digs. Junior Rebecca Rubin (Hastings-on-Hudson, NY) had four of the team's 11 aces and added nine digs. Senior Virginia Clay (Santa Clara, CA) contributed with three aces and five digs.
Hopper is the first Jumbo to have 20 kills in a match since Kelly Brennan had 23 against Wesleyan on September 29, 2012.
The Jumbos will play at the Hall of Fame Invitational next Friday and Saturday. The final regular season home match is November 2 when they host NESCAC for Colby and Simmons in a tri-match beginning at 12 pm.