The Middlebury volleyball team split the first two sets with Tufts, but the host Jumbos grabbed the final two on Friday evening for a 3-1 victory (25-19, 15-25, 25-21, 25-23) in Cousens Gymnasium. The Panthers (13-4, 5-2) return to the court tomorrow for a pair of matches at Bowdoin when they take on the Polar Bears at 1:00 followed by Maine-Presque Isle at 3:30 p.m., while Tufts (14-4, 8-0) plays two contests at Endicott on the same day.
In the opening set, Tufts moved out to a 7-3 lead on a Panther setting error. Middlebury responded with a 6-2 run to knot the set at 9-9. The Jumbos pulled ahead by a 13-9 count, but the Panthers fought back, cutting the deficit to one at 17-16 on a Jumbo attack error. The hosts put together a clinching run and earned the 25-19 win.
Ahead 5-4 in the second set, Middlebury rattled off 10 of the ensuing 15 points for a 14-9 advantage. The Jumbos cut the Panther lead to three (16-13) on a kill from Jennifer Ryan, but the Panthers scored the next three points via Tufts attack errors and were never challenged, evening the match at a set apiece.
In the third set, the Jumbos jumped out to the early lead and would have as much as a four-point advantage early on. The Panthers tied things up at 15-15, eventually taking the lead on kills from Isabel Sessions and Alice Roberts as well as a Jumbo error. Tufts answered with kills from Maddie Stewart and Christina Nwankpa, to take a one-point advantage before a Middlebury timeout.
Locked up at 19-19, the Jumbos scored five points behind the serve of Garrett to take a 24-19 advantage. The Panthers got a kill from Sessions and a Jumbo error to pull within three (24-21), but a Panther service error gave the Jumbos the 25-21 win.
Set four saw Middlebury grab an early lead, but the Jumbos tied things at 8-8 as the two teams traded the lead for most of the rest of the set. The score was tied 13 times the duration of the stanza. With the score locked at 23-23, the Jumbos got a kill from Nwankpa and a service ace from Garrett for the 25-23 victory.
Roberts led the Panthers with a season-best 12 kills, while Becca Raffel was right behind with 11 and Sessions chipped in with nine. Emma Walsh handed out 32 assists to go along with seven digs. Gigi Alper paced the Panther defense with 17 digs, while Shea Golden added 11 and Raffel completed her ninth double-double of the fall with 10 digs.
Mackenzie Bright tallied 15 kills for the Jumbos, while Nwanpka and Stewart each added 11 kills and added five blocks. Nwanpka finished with six blocks. Kelly Klimo ended her night with 18 digs for the Jumbos, while Angela Yu had 14 and Garrett concluded her match with 12. Yu handed out 36 assists, while Rachel Furash had 12 for the hosts.