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.