Middlebury battled No. 14 Tufts for three sets on Saturday in Pepin Gymnasium before falling by scores of 25-15, 27-25, 25-16 in NESCAC action. The Panthers (11-9, 4-4) return to action on Tuesday with a 7:00 p.m. home match against Plymouth State, while the 14th-ranked Jumbos (21-1, 8-0) host Bates on Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Tufts moved out to leads of 6-1 and 14-4 in the opening set, before Middlebury cut it to 20-13 on a Jumbo attack error. The visitors tallied five of the last seven points of the stanza, capped by a kill from Jennifer Ryan, for a 1-0 lead.
The second set featured back-and-forth action with neither side holding more than a two-point advantage early on. Tufts grabbed a 19-16 edge on a kill by Christina Nwankpa. The Panthers slowly inched their way back into the set, tying it at 24-24 on a kill by Jaime Donnelly. After trading points, a Middlebury attack error and a kill by Ryan gave Tufts a two-set lead.
In the final set, the Jumbos raced out to a 9-3 advantage on a kill by Heather Holz. Tufts increased its lead to 21-12 on a kill from Ryan, but the Panthers posted a 4-1 run capped on a kill from Laney Sullivan, to move to within 22-16. The visitors tallied the final three points and completed the sweep.
Maggie Wise led the way for the Panthers with 10 kills, while Corley Doyle chipped in with nine. Chellsa Ferdinand tallied 15 assists, while Emma Walsh dished out 13 to go along with eight digs. Gigi Alper posted a match-best 19 digs, while Wise added nine.
Cate Desler paced Tufts with a match-best 15 kills and posted a .355 hitting percentage, while Nwankpa and Ryan each added nine kills. Ariel Zedric recorded 19 assists, while Rachel Furash posted 18. Stephanie Lee dug up 17 balls, while Desler also finished in double figures with 12. Nwankpa finished with five block assists at the net for the Jumbos.