MEDFORD, Mass. – Sophomore Mackenzie Bright posted a match-high 18 kills, as the Tufts University volleyball team defeated Springfield College, 3-1, in regional-final action of the NCAA Division III Tournament on Sunday afternoon at Cousens Gym in Medford, Massachusetts.
The Jumbos (27-3, 10-0 in NESCAC) will compete in quarterfinal-round action of the NCAA Tournament Thursday at 5:30 p.m. against either the University of Texas at Dallas or Southwestern (Texas) at the Kolf Sports Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The Pride (29-6, 9-1 in NEWMAC) sees their season come to end, as they have advanced to the regional final of the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons.
"We are absolutely thrilled," said Jumbos head coach Cora Thompson. "I am so excited for our team. I think we have been battling all year against a really challenging schedule. (It was great) to put it all together on a day like this, in front of a crowd like that and against an opponent like Springfield. I could not be more proud of every single one of our players. There were a lot of highs and lows throughout that game. We battled through and stayed consistent. It was a great battle against a very competitive and intense opponent. It was a great day to be a Jumbo."
Bright was named the Most Valuable Player of the regional tournament, as she totaled 34 kills in the three-game tournament. The Duxbury, Massachusetts, native has 191 kills during the entire season.
"She is a phenomenal player," said Thompson. "She plays the best when she does not think and you saw that this weekend. She really got out there. She was very smart. Springfield has a huge block. Part of our game plan was staying away from senior Lauren Holt because she is a great blocker, and I think Mackenzie did that really, really well. She did a phenomenal job of finding out what her options were and getting right after it."
Senior captain Elizabeth Ahrens and senior McKenzie Humann were both named to the All-Tournament team for the Jumbos, while Holt and junior Kayleigh Helgesen both were named to the All-Tournament team for the Pride.
The Jumbos once again relied on their balanced attack, as they received noteworthy performances from Ahrens (11 kills, six digs), junior captain Alexandra Garrett (12 digs), sophomore Angela Yu (47 assists, eight digs), freshman Brigid Bell (16 digs, eight kills) and Humann (11 kills). The Pride were led by sophomore Jennifer Donnelly (11 digs, eight kills), freshman Anagabrielle Sanchez (15 digs, six assists), sophomore Hayley Kmetz (nine digs, seven kills), Helgesen (11 kills) and Holt (eight kills).
The fourth set was even, 13-13, on a kill by Donnelly of the Pride. The Jumbos responded with a crucial 7-1 run, as they took a 20-14 advantage on a kill by Yu. The Jumbos scored fifth of the next eight points, as Bright recorded the match-clinching kill, giving the Jumbos a 25-17 win in the fourth set.
The Jumbos raced out to a 7-3 lead in the opening set on a kill by Bright, as the sophomore standout tallied six kills in the opening set. A kill by junior Rebecca Higgins of the Pride trimmed the Jumbos' lead to 20-16. The Jumbos concluded the set on a 5-0 run, as Ahrens recorded the game-clinching kill, giving the Jumbos a 25-16 victory in the first set. Ahrens and Humann tallied three kills, respectively, in the opening set, while Yu contributed with 14 assists.
The Pride claimed a 13-12 advantage in the second set on a kill by Kmetz. The Jumbos responded with an 8-0 run, as a kill by Humann gave them a 20-13 lead. The Jumbos claimed the second set, 25-17, on a service error by the Pride.
In the third set, a kill by Bright evened the score, 6-6. The Pride answered with a 7-0 spurt, as a service point by senior Marnae Mawdsley gave the squad a 13-6 lead. The Jumbos chipped away, as they trimmed the deficit to 24-23 on a kill by Humann. Helgesen answered the bell with a game-clinching kill, as the pride won the third set, 25-23.