For the second-straight year, Tufts University has finished atop the conference standings and has secured the number-one seed for the upcoming NESCAC Volleyball Championship. The Jumbos will face a formidable tournament field, as seven of the eight teams that qualified sport a .500 or better record in league play this season. The 2009 edition of the tournament kicks off this coming Friday, Nov. 6 with quarterfinal matches at 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. at Cousens Gymnasium in Medford, Mass. The 2009 NESCAC Volleyball Championship continues with semifinal action on Saturday, Nov. 7, and concludes on Sunday, Nov. 8 with the championship match getting underway at 12:00 p.m.
It has been another successful season on the court for top-seeded Tufts (26-3, 8-2 NESCAC), as the Jumbos came away with tournament titles in the MIT Invitational, the Hall of Fame Tournament, and at their own event, the Tufts Invitational. Even still, it took the final match of the regular season for Tufts to secure the number-one seed, a 3-1 victory at Amherst on Saturday. Tufts finished the 2009 conference slate tied atop the standings with Connecticut College and Williams, however the Jumbos had the tie-breaker with victories over the other two squads. Tufts will begin its quest for its first NESCAC title since 1996 against eighth-seeded Wesleyan (13-13, 4-6 NESCAC). The Cardinals have had a streaky season, opening up the year with six consecutive losses and a 4-11 record in September before turning the season around and going 9-5 in October. Wesleyan saw its five-match winning streak snapped on Friday in its season finale at Connecticut College, suffering a 3-2 defeat. It was the sixth five-set match for the Cardinals this season in league play, a figure unmatched by any other team. Friday's quarterfinal contest will be the second meeting of the season for the two teams, as the Jumbos won the regular season matchup on Sept. 18 in Medford, 3-1. Against this year's field, Tufts owns a 9-2 record - with three wins against Williams alone - while Wesleyan is 1-9. Both squads managed to advance to Saturday last November but fell in the semifinals.
Second-seeded Williams (18-8, 8-2 NESCAC) capped the regular season with three league victories this past week, downing Middlebury 3-1 at home on Wednesday before clipping Bates and Colby by 3-0 scores on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The two-time defending NESCAC Volleyball Champion Ephs have been dominant in the postseason this decade, winning six of the previous nine titles and finishing as runner-up on one other occasion. A year ago, Williams entered the tournament as the fourth seed and battled past Middlebury, host Tufts, and rival Amherst for the 2008 crown. The Ephs went on to win the NCAA regional at Tufts and reach the NCAA volleyball championship. Williams will face seventh-seeded Bowdoin (19-10, 5-5 NESCAC) in the other 5:00 p.m. quarterfinal match on Friday. The Polar Bears grabbed a big 3-0 victory at Amherst last night but could not maintain the momentum, falling 3-1 to Trinity on Saturday to close out the regular season. These two programs clashed just over two weeks ago at Middlebury with the Ephs earning a 3-1 victory. The last time Bowdoin and Williams met in the NESCAC tournament was 2003, as the top-seeded Ephs took a 3-0 win over the Polar Bears in the quarterfinals. Williams is 8-4 against tournament foes this season, while Bowdoin is 2-7.
Although third-seeded Connecticut College (21-5, 8-2 NESCAC) just missed out on claiming the number-one seed and hosting this year's championship, the Camels managed to put together the program's best NESCAC record ever. Connecticut College is one of the hottest teams heading into the this year's tournament with an 8-2 mark through its last 10 outings, including the aforementioned 3-2 come-from-behind win over Wesleyan on Friday night. The Camels will look to reach the semifinals for the third time in the last four years when they face a dangerous foe in sixth-seeded Trinity (13-9, 6-4 NESCAC). The Bantams collected big wins over the final weekend of the regular season, downing Tufts in a marathon 3-2 victory on Friday, then turning around and winning 3-1 over Bowdoin on Saturday. Connecticut College won the only meeting of the regular season back on Oct. 17, 3-0. Against championship competition, the Camels posted a 6-3 mark while the Bantams went 3-5.
The final quarterfinal match pits a youthful fourth-seeded Middlebury (20-5, 7-3 NESCAC) against fifth-seeded Amherst (19-7, 6-4 NESCAC). The Panthers reached the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2004 as they closed out the regular season on a 10-1 run since losing to Connecticut College 3-0 on Oct. 9. After falling at Williams on Wednesday, Middlebury regrouped with wins over Colby (3-0) and Bates (3-1) to finish the conference schedule. Amherst, meanwhile, was riding high heading into the final weekend but stumbled with back-to-back losses to Bowdoin and Tufts. The Jeffs have advanced to the championship match in each of the last three years, winning their third NESCAC title over rival Williams in 2006, while the Panthers have not made it to the semifinals since 2004. These two teams have faced each other twice this season. Middlebury took the non-conference match on Sept. 26 with a 3-1 decision and Amherst responded in the conference contest with a 3-2 win a week later on Oct. 3. The Panthers are 6-3 against the tournament field, while the Jeffs hold a 4-6 mark.
2009 NESCAC VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Quarterfinals - Friday, November 6 at Tufts
No. 8 Wesleyan at No. 1 Tufts - 5:00 p.m.
No. 7 Bowdoin vs. No. 2 Williams - 5:00 p.m.
No. 6 Trinity vs. No. 3 Connecticut College - 8:00 p.m.
No. 5 Amherst vs. No. 4 Middlebury - 8:00 p.m.
Semifinals - Saturday, November 7 at Tufts
Winner No. 1/No. 8 vs. Winner No. 4/No. 5 - 1:00 p.m.
Winner No. 2/No. 7 vs. Winner No. 3/No. 6 - 3:30 p.m.
Championship - Sunday, November 8 at Tufts
Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.
-- courtesy NESCAC --