MEDFORD, Mass. – The Brandeis University volleyball team split a pair of matches at the 2021 Tufts Invitational today. The Judges opened with a four-set loss to the host Jumbos (17-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-20), before defeating the Illinois Institute of Technology Scarlet Hawks in straight sets (25-23, 25-18, 25-21). The Judges improve to 4-3 on the season, while Tufts is now 4-0 and IIT is 1-4.
In the opener, the Judges continued the momentum from their five-set win on Thursday with a 25-17 victory in the first set against Tufts. Brandeis raced out to a 9-2 lead and never looked back. The next two sets were tightly contested. The second was tied at 19 with neither team taking a lead larger than two points before Tufts closed on a 6-2 run. In the third, Brandeis turned around a five-point deficit to take a 19-18 lead, but the Jumbos again finished strong as both sets ended 25-21 in favor of Tufts. In the fourth set, the hosts established an early 4-0 lead and were in command throughout, closing out the match, 25-20.
Brandeis was paced by senior middle blocker Kaisa Newberg (Reno, Nev./Sage Ridge School) led the Brandeis offense with 11 kills, making just one error in 26 attempts for a .385 hitting percentage. Both figures were match-highs. First-year outside hitter Lara Verstovsek (Bellaire, Texas / Episcopal) added seven kills and a career-high six service aces, to go with one block assist, for a team-high 13.5 points. Senior outside hitter Stephanie Borr (Westfield, N.J./Westfield) paced the defense with 13 digs, while sophomore setter Ines Grom-Mansenecal (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wyoming) had 25 assists.
Against Illinois Tech, it was Brandeis's turn to finish strong throughout the match. In the first set, they snapped a 22-22 tie with three of the last four points to take it, 25-23, on a kill by Verstovsek. In the second, the Judges trailed 6-0 and came back to tie it at 11. They were down again at 16-15, but ended on a 9-2 run, with sophomore libero Ella Pereira (Redondo Beach, Calif./Rolling Hills Prep) serving the final five points of a 25-18 win. The final set saw an even bigger comeback, as the Judges went from 16-12 down to 22-18 ahead thanks to a five-point serving streak by Verstovsek. Rookie Tatiana Wainer (North Miami Beach, Fla./Schech Hillel Community) picked up the winning kill.
The Judges had a balanced offensive attack against the Scarlet Hawks. Besides Verstovsek's match-high 14 kills, three other Judges had six kills and a fourth had four. Grom-Mansenecal recorded her third double-double of the season with 31 assists and 13 digs, while Pereira led all players with 14 digs. Pereira and Verstovsek each had three of Brandeis's nine service aces.
The Judges return to action on Tuesday evening when they will get a rematch with Tufts in Red Auerbach Arena.