Nov. 13, 2009

MEDFORD, Mass. - Tufts University swept the Wellesley Blue in the NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship Regional Semi-finals on Friday night to advance to Saturday's regional championship match. The Jumbos won by scores of 25-20, 25-20, and 25-19. Tufts will face Williams in an all New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) regional final tomorrow at 7:00 pm.

The top seeded Jumbos started the match with an 11-5 lead on the legs of two kills and a service ace by junior Caitlin Updike (Manhattan Beach, CA). Updike tallied eight kills on the night. The Blue fought back with kills by first years Isabel Custodio (Powell, OH) and Elizabeth Campbell (Solona Beach, CA). Campbell would go on to kill 10 balls on the evening, while Custodio assisted on 23 points. Another ace by Updike gave the Jumbos an eight-point lead, and Wellesley could not close the gap enough despite an ace by Campbell and several great digs by libero Naomi Iwata (Seattle, WA). Iwata co-led the Blue with 10 digs on the night. Tufts took the 1-0 lead with a 25-20 victory.

Despite few kills early in the second set, Tufts built a five-point advantage. Junior Dawson Joyce-Mendive (Minden, NV) was critical in the offensive attack, adding three kills and two consecutive service aces. Mendive served three aces in the match and led the Jumbos with 14 kills. The Wellesely offense came alive in the second set behind first year Taylor King (Walnut Creek, CA). She added five of her 11 kills in the second set, and sophomore Amanda Duritsch (Troy, OH) pitched in two more in the set. Tufts got several key blocks from sophomore Lexi Nicholas (San Diego, CA), and the Jumbos lead fluctuated between four and six points. Another late ace from Elizabeth Campbell was not enough for the Blue, and the home team won by the exact same score in the second set, 25-20.

Joyce-Mendive was big in the third set as well, adding another ace and several more kills, and Tufts was off to a familiar five-point lead. Senior Alice Kate Cummings (Tallahassee, FL), who dug 10 balls for Wellesley in the match, added a service ace in the third set, but Tufts was able to trade points through the third game due to their early lead. First year Brittany Neff (Culver City, CA) added three big kills down the stretch for the Jumbos, while setter Dena Feiger (Long Grove, IL) set up 34 points in the semi-final victory. Sophomore Audrey Kuan (Los Altos, CA) led all players with 15 digs, and the top seeded Jumbos finished off a workmanlike effort with a 25-19 win in the third set.

"The key was staying loose and really just enjoying the opportunity," Tufts coach Cora Thompson said. "We played a lot looser tonight than I think we have in the past few matches and really just did what the ball let us do. We took what Wellesley would give us. We had great ball control, we were much more disciplined on defense and actually we really served them tough. That was one of our goals coming in. If we could knock them out of their offense, it makes their outside hitters a little less dangerous. We did a great job of sticking to our game plan."

Tufts improves to 30-4 on the season, setting a new program record for victories. The win over the Blue is revenge for a five-set loss to Wellesley in the NCAA Regional semi-final last year at Cousens Gym. Tufts will now play Williams in a rematch of last weekend's NESCAC championship match. The Ephs took that in straight sets for their ninth league title.

Wellesley finished a successful season with a mark of 24-10.