Volleyball edged by Tufts in three close sets in NESCAC opener

Taylor Stafford-Smith had a team-high 11 kills and added nine digs in Bates' match at Tufts on Sept. 15, 2017. (File photo by Theophil Syslo/Bates College) 

MEDFORD, Mass. -- Host Tufts University held off the Bates College volleyball team for three close sets, winning the NESCAC opener for both teams 3-0 by set scores of 25-23, 25-22, 27-25 Friday night in Cousens Gym.

Tufts (4-1,  1-0 NESCAC) went 27-4 in 2016, including a 10-0 mark in conference play.

Bates (3-3, 0-1 NESCAC) came back from deficits of 6-1, 13-6 and 17-9 to tie the first set, then take a 22-20 lead with a 13-3 run, with two kills apiece by sophomore Taylor Stafford-Smith (Calabasas, Calif.) and first-years Ruby Lightbourn (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Angel Echipue (Munich, Germany). Another kill by Stafford-Smith made it 23-21 in Bates' favor, but the Jumbos closed out the set with four straight points.

The second and third sets were both close from wire to wire. In the second set, a Stafford-Smith kill closed the Jumbos' lead to 23-22, but a kill by Mackenzie Bright followed by a Bates attack error gave Tufts a 2-0 lead after two. In the third set, a service ace by senior Augy Silver (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) tied the score at 22-22, and two subsequent service errors by the Jumbos tied the score again at 23 and 24. On match point, Stafford-Smith's kill tied the score again at 25-25, but Tufts finished out the match with kills by Alex Garrett and Heather Holz to clinch it.

The Bobcats were led by 11 kills from Stafford-Smith, eight by Lightbourn and seven by Echipue (on a team-best .400 attack percentage). Defensively, sophomore Gabi Eustache (New York, N.Y.) finished with 23 digs and Staffford-Smith added nine, while Echipue notched three blocks. Senior captain Jacqueline Forney (Bloomington, Ind.) took care of the setting for the Bobcats and finished with 30 assists.

For the Jumbos, Bright had a season-high 16 kills and Holz and Bell both added eight to the offensive efforts. Brigid Bell finished the evening with eight kills on a .538 hitting percentage. Kelly Klimo finished with 16 digs and Angely Yu added 13 of her own. Yu and Furash ran the offense and finished with 21 and 22 assists, respectively.

Bates will play two matches at Bowdoin College on Saturday: a NESCAC match against the Polar Bears at 1pm, followed by a non-conference match against Johnson & Wales.