Middlebury Defeats Tufts in Four Sets to Conclude Regular Season

Eliana Schaefer had 10 kills and hit .400 to go along with four block assists in Saturday's victory.
Eliana Schaefer had 10 kills and hit .400 to go along with four block assists in Saturday's victory.

The Middlebury volleyball team defeated Tufts by a 3-1 score Saturday afternoon inside Pepin Gymnasium by scores of 22-25, 25-23, 25-20 and 25-19. With both teams posting identical 7-3 NESCAC records, Middlebury (17-6) earns the fourth seed for the upcoming NESCAC Tournament and will face the Jumbos again next Friday at 8:00 p.m. in the NESCAC Quarterfinals at Bowdoin.

In Saturday's opening set, the Jumbos rattled off a 6-1 run capped off by a kill from MacKenzie Bright, turning a one-point lead (6-5) into a six-point advantage at 12-6. The Panthers slowly chipped away at the deficit, tying the set at 21-21 on a kill by Isabel Sessions. Tufts scored four of the final five points highlighted by kills from Alex Garrett, Maddie Kuppe and Katie Kim for a 1-0 lead.

Middlebury raced out to a 7-2 lead in the second set highlighted by a pair of kills from both Eliana Schaefer and Sessions. Regaining the momentum, Tufts tallied 11 of the next 15 points and held its largest lead of the set at 13-11. The Panthers fought back with three-straight points on kills from Sessions and Melanie English sandwiched around a Jumbo attack error for a 14-13 lead. The teams posted small runs and with the Panthers holding a 24-23 edge, Sessions tied the match at 1-1 with a kill.

The third set was tight as neither team led by more than three through the first 20 points. Clinging to an 11-9 edge, the hosts quickly scored the next three points for a 14-9 advantage. The Jumbos pulled to within two at 21-19 on a Panther attack error, but a kill from Schaefer and a setting error gave the Panthers a two sets to one edge.

The fourth set played out much like the third as neither team could pull away. With the set knotted at 11-11, a pair of kills by Sessions wrapped around two Jumbo attack errors gave the Panthers a lead they would not relinquish for the four-set victory.

Sessions led the Panthers with 15 kills, while Raffel finished with 13 and Schaefer added 10 with just two errors on 20 attempts for a .400 hitting percentage. Blackburn handed out 45 assists, while Emily Kolodka (13), Claire White-Dzuro (12), Raffel (12) and Blackburn (11) all ended the match with double-figure dig totals. English, the league leader in blocks per set, had a block solo and six block assists, while Schaefer tacked on four block assists.

Kuppe tied Sessions for match-high honors with 15 kills, while Bright was also in double figures with 11. Angela Yu had a double-double of 17 assists and 14 digs, while Carolina Berger and Garrett tallied 16 and 14 digs, respectively. McKenzie Humann (1 BS, 4 BA) led the Jumbo presence at the net, while Elizabeth Ahrens, Anique Barch and Katie Kim each finished with four block assists.