Volleyball Comeback Falls Short in 3-2 Setback to Southwestern in NCAA Tournament

OSHKOSH, Wis. – The Tufts University volleyball team posted third- and fourth-set victories after dropping the first two sets to No. 7 Southwestern (Texas) in quarterfinal-round action of the NCAA Division III Tournament Thursday evening, but the Pirates were able to win the decisive fifth set, 15-13, en route to a 3-2 victory at the Kolf Sports Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 

The Pirates (34-4, 12-2 in SCAC), who have qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 11 of the last 12 seasons, will compete against No. 16 Washington University in St. Louis (25-10, 5-2 in UAA) or No. 14 University of Mary Washington (31-3, 8-1 in CAC) in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at 8:30 p.m. in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 

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> Watch Southwestern Press Conference

The Jumbos, who advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history, see their season come to an end, as they defeated Maine Maritime Academy, 3-0, in the first round, UMass-Boston, 3-1, in the second round and Springfield, 3-1, in the regional final. The Jumbos also reached the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament in 2009 season under five-time NESCAC Coach of the Year Cora Thompson.

"First of all, a lot of credit to Southwestern, they played an incredible match and it was a battle both ways, and best of luck to them going forward," said Jumbos head coach Cora Thompson. "Obviously, it was not the outcome that we hoped for or we wanted, but I am incredibly proud of our team. To go down two sets at the beginning there, and battle back and force it to a fifth and be that close is heartbreaking but at the same time very impressive for this young group. Our seniors have done such a great job. I am really proud of our overall efforts." 

The Pirates claimed an early 4-1 lead in the fifth set on a kill by junior Piper Sisemore. A kill by sophomore Mackenzie Bright of the Jumbos trimmed the Pirates' advantage to 9-8. The Pirates tallied four consecutive points, as they took a 13-8 lead. The Jumbos responded with a 5-1 run, as a kill by senior captain Elizabeth Ahrens trimmed the Pirates' lead to 14-13. Sisemore answered the bell, as she tallied the match-clinching kill for the Pirates, giving them a 15-13 win in the final set. 

The Jumbos were led by Ahrens (10 kills, eight digs), freshman Brigid Bell (22 digs, 13 kills), junior captain Alexandra Garrett (22 digs), freshman Heather Holz (nine kills), freshman Maddie Stewart (eight kills), sophomore Angela Yu (match-high 28 assists, 23 digs), Bright (10 kills), freshman Rachel Furash (13 assists) and freshman Kelly Klimo (match-high 34 digs). 

Sophomore Jamison Duck registered a match-high 19 kills for the Pirates, while she also tallied a team-high 31 digs. The squad also received strong performances from junior Kate Mitchell (13 kills), Sisemore (14 kills), freshman Haley Yu (nine kills, seven digs), senior Nikki Welch (26 assists, 18 digs), senior Andie Alford (30 digs) and senior Sydney Rochelle (26 assists).  

After losing the first two sets, the Jumbos came out with a great deal of energy in the third, as they built a 12-3 lead on a kill by Furash. A kill by Bell gave the Jumbos a 23-11 advantage, and then the Pirates responded with a 9-0 spurt, trimming the deficit to 23-20. The Jumbos recorded back-to-back points, as Ahrens recorded the game-clinching kill, giving the Jumbos a 25-20 victory in the third set. 

The fourth was tied, 6-6, on a kill by Duck, but then the Jumbos claimed a 12-9 advantage on a kill by Bright. The Pirates battled to the end of the fourth, as a kill by Yu trimmed the Jumbos' lead to 22-20. The Jumbos scored three of the next four points, as a kill by Holz gave the Jumbos a 25-21 victory in the must-win fourth set. 

The two teams treated the fans to a back-and-forth brand of volleyball in the opening set, as the Jumbos built a 5-2 advantage on a kill by Holz. The Pirates responded with a 4-0 run, as they claimed a 6-5 lead on a kill by Sisemore. A kill by Bell evened the score, 10-10, and then Ahrens registered a kill for the Jumbos, evening the score, 17-17. The Pirates posted a 22-20 lead on a kill by Sisemore, and then closed the set with three consecutive points, as a kill by Duck gave the Pirates a 25-21 victory in the first set. 

The second game was a highly-contested battle, as the score was tied, 7-7, on a kill by Duck. Each team scored six of the next 12 points, as the set was even, 13-13, on a kill by Ahrens. A kill by Holz gave the Jumbos a two-point lead, 20-18. The Pirates excelled down the stretch of the second game, as they embarked on a 7-1 spurt, giving them a 25-21 victory in the set on a service ace.

Written by Trevor Wenners, Athletic Communications Intern