HADLEY, Mass. - Tufts is the top seed in the 2019 NESCAC Volleyball Championship and will host all rounds of the tournament for the third time in four years. The NESCAC Championships get underway with quarterfinal matches on Friday, November 8. The semifinals are set for Saturday, November 9 and the championship match will be played on Sunday, November 10.
Bowdoin (16-6, 8-2 NESCAC), the defending NESCAC Champion, is the No. 3 seed in 2019. The Polar Bears have played in 14 straight NESCAC Championships and have advanced to the semifinals eight straight years. Bowdoin owns three NESCAC Championships overall and was most recently the No. 3 seed in 2017. The Polar Bears will face No. 6 Williams (14-10, 5-5 NESCAC) in its first match of the championship. The Ephs, who have played in every NESCAC Championship since 1999, are the No. 6 seed for the second consecutive season. Williams, which has won 11 NESCAC titles, looks to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2015. Bowdoin pulled out a five-set, 3-2, victory over the Ephs on October 4, but the Ephs own a 4-2 edge in the NESCAC postseason series. The Polar Bears won the last meeting in the 2016 quarterfinals, 3-1.
"Honestly, we are super excited about the opportunity to compete again this weekend at the conference championship," Ephs head coach Christi Kelsey said. "We are looking forward to our rematch with Bowdoin as they are a strong team but we match up incredibly well with them. We are going to take it one match at a time and know that all eight teams will be battling it out this weekend with some great volleyball. We have had a great week of practice so far and we are proud of how our team has been in the gym. They have been really focused on continuing to get better but have also kept it fun and just have enjoyed playing for each other."
Williams is led by its senior class of Alexandra Newton, Erin Denham, Daiana Taskashima and Natalie Albright. Denham leads the Ephs with 248 kills, averaging 2.92 kills per st this season, and has 144 digs as well. Sophomore Lydia Kurts leads the Ephs in kills per set at 3.12 and has 234 kills total in 2019. Newton has enjoyed a fantastic all-around senior season with 546 assists, 57 kills, 224 digs and 10 blocks. Kurtz had 236 digs to go along with her 234 kills. Sophomore Olivia Hindy has been a factor with 112 kills and a team-leading 69 blocks. Takashima is the team leader in digs with 402.
Tufts (24-1, 10-0 NESCAC) finished the season with a perfect 10-0 mark in league play for the fourth time since 2000. The Jumbos' unblemished record in conference action marks the 11th time since 2000 a team has posted an undefeated NESCAC record. Tufts, which has qualified for every NESCAC Championship since 2000, is the No. 1 seed for the sixth time in program history and the first time since 2017. The Jumbos have advanced to the semifinals three straight years and five times in the last six seasons. Tufts won its lone NESCAC title in 1996 and has played in two of the last three championship matches. The top-seeded Jumbos will face No. 8 Hamilton (10-13, 3-7 NESCAC) in the quarterfinal round. The Continentals are making their third NESCAC Championship appearance and the second in three years. Hamilton is seeking its first NESCAC Tournament win in program history. Tufts defeated Hamilton, 3-0, on October 4 and the quarterfinal match marks the first meeting between the two schools in NESCAC Championship play in the existing tournament format.
Wesleyan (19-3, 9-1 NESCAC) has qualified for the NESCAC Championship for the fourth year in a row and is the No. 2 seed for the third straight year. The Cardinals have reached the semifinals in back-to-back seasons and won their first NESCAC title in 2017. Wesleyan will play No. 7 Bates (16-9, 4-6 NESCAC) in a quarterfinal match for the second straight year. The Bobcats have qualified for the NESCAC Tournament for the fifth straight season and are looking for their first NESCAC Tournament victory since 2003. Bates' 16 wins this season are the most since 2009. The Bobcats won four straight NESCAC titles from 1990 to 1993. Wesleyan posted a 3-1 victory over Bates on October 5 and the NESCAC Championship series is tied up at 2-2. The Cardinals won last year's quarterfinal contest, 3-0.
Amherst (19-5, 7-3 NESCAC), the 2018 NESCAC Runner-Up, earned the No. 4 seed and has competed in every NESCAC Championship since 1999. The Mammoths are the fourth seed for the first time since 2012 and have advanced to the semifinals six straight times. Amherst won its third and most recent NESCAC title in 2006. The Mammoths will meet No. 5 Middlebury (14-9, 6-4 NESCAC) in the quarterfinals. The Panthers are the No. 5 seed for the second time in three years and have also qualified for every NESCAC Championship since 1999. Middlebury seeks a spot in the semifinals for the first time since its championship run in 2016, when it won the most recent of its three NESCAC titles. Amherst earned a 3-0 victory over Middlebury on September 27 and owns a 3-1 lead in the four meetings between the two teams in the NESCAC Tournament. The Panthers picked up their first victory over the Mammoths, 3-0, in the most recent meeting in the 2016 semifinal.