The Middlebury volleyball team was defeated by visiting Tufts in a NESCAC matchup Saturday afternoon inside Pepin Gymnasium by scores of 25-16, 25-13, 20-25 and 25-19. Middlebury (12-11, 6-4) will be the number four seed in next weekend's NESCAC Tournament and will battle fifth-seeded Bowdoin on Friday at 8:00 p.m., while Tufts (19-7, 9-1) grabbed the top seed with today's win and will host the tournament. The Jumbos will take on eighth-seeded Trinity at 5:00 p.m.
In the opening set, the Jumbos scored six of the first nine points capped off via a kill by Hayley Hopper. Middlebury chipped away and cut the deficit to two at 9-7 on a kill from Alice Roberts. Tufts rattled off a 10-2 run, including three kills apiece by Maddie Kuppe and Isabel Kuhel and possessed a 19-9 advantage. The Panthers cut it to eight at 22-14, but the Jumbos held on for the set victory.
Middlebury tallied five of the first six points in the second set. Tufts fought back and produced a 12-3 run, capped off via a block assist by Hopper and Elizabeth Ahrens. Leading by five at 13-8, the Jumbos slowly pulled away and cruised to the 25-13 win.
In the third set, Tufts grabbed an early 5-3 advantage. Middlebury went on an 8-2 run, finished off on a kill from Olivia Kolodka, and led by four at 11-7. The Jumbos worked their way back into the set and tied it at 13-13 on a kill by Hopper. The Panthers tallied eight of the next 10 points, including three kills from Roberts, and took a 21-15 lead. Tufts cut the deficit to four at 22-18 and 23-19, but a kill from Middlebury's Becca Raffel gave the Panthers the set.
The fourth set saw back and forth action as the teams split the first 34 points with neither side holding more than a three-point lead. Tied at 17-17, the Jumbos recorded the next two points and slowly pulled away for the 25-19 win.
Roberts led the Panthers with 13 kills against just three errors and a .333 hitting percentage, while Raffel and Kolodka each chipped in with seven. Hannah Blackburn handed out 29 assists to go along with three service aces, while Lizzy Reed led Middlebury with 14 digs. Kolodka had a block solo and seven block assists, and Melanie English added seven block assists.
Kuppe and Hopper tied for match-high honors with 17 kills each for the Jumbos, while Kuhel also wound up in double figures with 11. Kyra Baum posted 48 assists, while Carolina Burger led the defense with a match-best 20 digs. Kuhel tallied two block solos and five block assists.