MEDFORD – In one of the biggest victories in program history, the Tufts University volleyball team won in five sets against a Trinity University (Texas) team ranked third in the AVCA national poll on Saturday at Cousens Gym.
The Jumbos (12-4) took a decisive fifth set 19-17 to earn the win over the Tigers (19-2), who came into the match with 13 straight victories. The fifth set was tied 17-17 before a pair of kills by All-American Cate Desler (pictured) won it for the Jumbos.
Desler was outstanding in the match with 25 kills and just five errors on 52 swings for a .385 hitting percentage. She also had 12 digs and a block assist. Junior Grace Legris added 10 kills and five blocks, Maddie Yu had 32 assists and Stephanie Lee served a pair of aces to go with 23 digs.
Tufts has won two NCAA Regionals and played in two NCAA Quarterfinals, but this has to rank as the top national victory in the team's history. The Tigers spent the weekend in the Boston area and earned wins over Endicott (3-2), Babson (3-1) and MIT (3-0) prior to facing the Jumbos.
Trinity's Annie Rose Leggett and Sara Flynn both had 16 kills, while Alexis Acevedo led the Tigers with 17 digs. Nadia Kern had 15. Brette Thornton finished with six block assists as the visitors scored 12 points on blocks in the match.
The Tigers took the first set convincingly 25-12. Tufts was within 11-8 in the middle of the match after a Tiger error, but Trinity went on a 14-4 run from there. Seven different Tigers had kills in the second half of the set, with Leggett recording three along with a service ace to lead the way.
However, the Jumbos asserted themselves with victories in the next two sets – 25-21 and 25-23. They emerged out of a 20-20 tie in the second set by scoring five of the final six points including two kills by Jennifer Ryan. In the third set, the match was 20-20 and Tufts had the stronger finishing touch again with two kills by Legris and the winner by Desler putting the Jumbos up 2-1.
In the fourth set, a run of seven out of nine points by Trinity put them ahead 13-8. Flynn had three kills and Leggett added two during the stretch. The Tigers would advance that lead to 20-12 on another Leggett kill and evened the match at 2-2 with a 25-17 win.
Trinity led the fifth set 6-2 early, but the Jumbos fought back to even things at 9-9 on a Desler kill assisted by Ariel Zedric. There were seven ties from there until Desler's back-to-back spikes earned Tufts the win.
The Jumbos will host Bowdoin in a non-conference match Tuesday night at Cousens. Trinity returns home and will host Centenary (La.) next Saturday.