Jumbos Can't Hold Off Wesleyan Comeback and Fall, 3-2, in Regular Season Finale

MEDFORD – In their regular season finale the Tufts volleyball team took the first two sets, but they weren't able to hold off a Wesleyan comeback, falling to the Cardinals, 3-2, in Cousens Gym on Saturday afternoon.  

Maddie Stewart finished with a career-high 16 kills on Saturday.

With the setback the Jumbos finish the regular season with a 15-9 record overall, and they are 6-4 in NESCAC games.  Wesleyan improves to 16-4 overall and they finish 9-1 in NESCAC games. The Jumbos will be the fifth seed in the upcoming NESCAC Tournament, while the win helps Wesleyan clinch the second seed in the tournament

After Wesleyan scored the first two points in set one, the Jumbos scored six straight points behind the serve of junior Brigid Bell to take a 6-2 lead. Ahead 8-5, the Jumbos got behind the serve of freshman Cate Desler and scored six more points to lead 14-5.  Their last run would be on the serve of junior Heather Holz, as the Jumbos scored seven points to take a 22-7 lead and moved on to a 25-10 win in set one. 

Set two was very different as the two teams traded points and the lead, and the score was tied 12 different times during the set with neither team putting together anything more than a three-point lead.  With the score locked at 18 the Jumbos got a kill from Holz and then a kill from sophomore Jennifer Ryan to take a 20-18 lead. The Cardinals came within one, 20-19, but that's as close as they would come as the Jumbos held on for a 25-20 win in set two to take the 2-0 advantage in the match. 

Wesleyan came out of the break on fire and scored the first nine points of the third set.  The Cardinals held that lead for most of the set.  Down 23-14, the Jumbos started a comeback, getting a kill from Holz, an ace from Desler, a kill from Desler and then two kills from senior co-captain Mackenzie Bright brought the Jumbos within four, 23-19.  But, the Cardinals got a kill from Nicole Hilton and then a kill from Madeleine Lundberg gave them the 25-19 win in set three. 

The Cardinals and the Jumbos traded points early in the fourth set.  With the score locked at four the Cardinals scored five points behind the serve of Grace Rose to take a 9-4 lead.  After two Jumbo points, they would score four more straight points to increase their lead to seven, 13-6.  They held on to that lead to pick up a 25-14 win in set four to tie the match at two. 

Ahead in the fifth set, 5-4, the Cardinals got three kills from Graves and then another from Hilton to take a 9-4 lead.  Trailing 11-5 the Jumbos started a comeback getting two kills from both Bell and junior Christina Nwankpa and a Cardinal error brought them within two, 12-10.  But the Cardinals got two kills from Lundberg and another from Mia Jago to take a 15-11 win in the fifth set. 

Stewart finished with a career-high 16 kills while Desler added 13 kills, nine digs and five aces.  Bright added eight kills and six digs with two blocks, and Nwankpa added seven kills and three blocks.  Defensively, Bell and Acker each added eight digs and junior Rachel Furash turned in nine digs.  Furash and freshman Ariel Zedric took care of the setting, finishing with 33 and 14 assists, respectively.  

For the Cardinals Litinsky finished with 13 kills while Graves turned in nine kills and Hilton added eight kills.   Lundberg finished the day with nine kills, ten digs and three blocks.  Hilton also added three blocks to her day.  Defensively, Phia Bellizzi was the leader with 23 digs and Kaira Muraoka-Robertson added 12.  

The Jumbos and the Cardinals will both be back in action next weekend when they compete in the NESCAC Tournament at Bowdoin.