MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – In a matchup of the two Top 20 nationally-ranked teams, the No. 17 Wesleyan volleyball team put forth an incredible effort to sweep No. 19 Tufts, 3-0, in front of a packed Silloway Gymnasium on Friday night. Wesleyan (5-0, 1-0 NESCAC) is off to a 5-0 start for the second time in three seasons while this marked the Cardinals’ first 3-0 sweep of the Jumbos (3-2, 0-1 NESCAC) since 2002.
The catalyst in the victory was Michelle Jorba ’25 who dominated to the tone of a career-high 14 kills on 28 attempts, hitting .321 for the match. She wasn’t done as the sophomore also tallied a career-high five blocks (two solo), two of which came towards the end of a feverous second set rally that saw the Cardinals overcome a 21-15 deficit.
The Cardinals hit .278 as a team while recording 10 blocks, compared to just two for the Jumbos. Grace Dennis ’23 stuffed the stat sheet with 25 assists, 11 digs, four kills and two blocks. Jenna Otaola ’22 recorded 11 digs, six assists and two service aces while Kathryn Morton ’24 went for four kills, six blocks and four digs.
Much was made in the lead-up to this NESCAC-opening showdown as these two sides met twice last season – both of which ending in 3-2 Wesleyan victories including one in the NESCAC Semifinal. The quality of play echoed the hype as both teams traded points throughout the early stages of the first set. Wesleyan leaned on Jorba for consecutive kills that made it 12-10 before Dennis put away a kill that capped a 6-1 Cardinal run. Neither side amassed more than three consecutive points including the end as Wesleyan led 22-21 before a pair of Tufts errors opened the door for a Jorba kill on set point that gave the Cardinals a 25-21 victory.
It did not look promising for Wesleyan in the second set as Tufts found their footing offensively and built a lead of as many as eight points, leading 17-9 at one point. With the score later showing 21-15 in favor of the Jumbos, an epic rally began with the Cardinals rattling off a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to just one. Jorba, again, was highly involved as she kickstarted the rally with two kills, one of which was a thunderous strike that was heard all throughout the gym. After Tufts nudged a point back, the Cardinals posted a 4-0 run, capped with consecutive blocks from Jorba and Morton. Now with set point, Dennis got Sophia Lindus ’26 the ball in a great spot, as her kill gave Wesleyan a 25-23 come-from-behind win.
Wesleyan carried that momentum into the third as the Cardinals held an early advantage for the first time in a set during the match, leading 14-9 which later extended to a 19-13 advantage. Tufts, however, made a great run to close as a 6-0 run turned a five-point deficit into a one-point lead for the Jumbos at 24-23. With the Cardinals facing a set point for the first time in the match, Mariko Tanaka ’24 slammed a kill home down the middle to make it 24-24. After a bad Tufts set gave Wesleyan match point, the Jumbos hit an attack long for another error, sealing a 26-24 third set win to clinch the match for Wesleyan.
Prior to tonight, it had been 21 matches between Wesleyan and Tufts since the Cardinals won by a 3-0 sweep, all the way back on October 29, 2002.
The Cardinals hit the road for the first time this season, as Wesleyan travels to Keene State to take on the host Owls at 3:30 PM on Saturday, following a 1 PM match against Johnson & Wales.