Undefeated Volleyball Takes Down Wellesley; Best Season Since ’83

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Lindsay E. Hunting ’09 digs the ball in Tuesday’s volleyball game against Wellesley College. The Engineers remain undefeated and handed Wellesley their first loss after a 3-0 sweep.
William Yee—The Tech

In a battle of undefeated women’s volleyball teams in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, MIT emerged with a 30-28, 30-25, 30-23 win over Wellesley College on Tuesday night. The victory lifted the Engineers’ ledger to 26-1 overall and 7-0 in conference play and also extended their winning streak to 22 consecutive matches.

The current stretch ranks second in the program’s history as the Cardinal and Gray tallied 41 straight wins during the 1983 season, eventually falling in the title match of the NCAA Championship. Wellesley, previously winners of 14 straight games, saw its record drop to 20-4 on the year and 6-1 in the NEWMAC.

MIT opened the match with five unanswered points and later established a 10-4 advantage. The Blue slowly chipped away at the deficit, eventually capturing a 16-14 lead behind strong serving from Lauren Rasmussen. Following three ties and two lead changes, Wellesley went ahead, 21-19, which prompted a time-out by the Engineers. Following the break, MIT rattled off three straight points before a service error evened the game at 22.

Another three-point spurt by the Engineers resulted in a time-out by the Blue. Wellesley narrowed the gap to one (25-24), but MIT countered with a trio of points. The Blue scored four of the next five points to once again narrow its margin to one (29-28). A time-out by the Engineers ended the momentum as a strike by Jennifer Li ’11 clinched the game.

Tech maintained a narrow lead for a majority of the second game until Wellesley evened the score at 14. A kill by Katherine C. Rowe ’10 put the Engineers ahead for good, though the Blue remained within striking distance. MIT extended its lead to four (22-18) following a hit by Lindsay E. Hunting ’09 that just made its way over the net.

Wellesley captured the ensuing point after its time-out, but MIT quickly increased its advantage to six (25-19). With the score at 28-23 after a block by Katrina M. Ellison ’10, the Blue used its final time-out of the game. Wellesley picked up back-to-back points, but it could not generate a late rally as MIT capitalized on a kill from Barden E. Cleeland ’10 and a hitting miscue by the Blue to close out the game.

The early stages of the third game were a back-and-forth affair, which eventually resulted in a 12-9 advantage for Wellesley. The Engineers picked up five of the next six points to regain the lead at 14-13. The Blue immediately evened the contest, but MIT maintained a three-point cushion that last occurred at 20-17.

Wellesley posted the next three points to establish the third tie of the game. The Engineers answered with a hit by Rose Zhong ’08 and converted a defensive miscue by the Blue to push their lead to two (22-20). A strike by Jessica Duff down the near sideline cut Wellesley’s deficit in half. MIT mounted an 8-3 run to close the match, with three key hits from Li and a pair of aces by Carrie C. Buchanan ’08 powering the late surge.

Li led the way with a season-high 14 kills, while Amanda J. Morris ’08 dished out 41 assists. Zhong finished with 15 digs and eight kills, as Rowe notched eight kills and four blocks. Ellison paced the blocking corps with five stops to go along with seven kills, while Cleeland contributed six kills and four blocks. Buchanan collected 15 digs and three aces, and Catherine Melnikow ’10 picked up nine digs.

Murielle Dawdy and Tracy Waldman each posted 12 kills as Emily Peters registered a match-high 23 digs for the Blue. Victoria Peng also distributed 26 assists.

MIT will compete in the Hall of Fame Tournament this weekend. Today’s matches will be held at Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke and Smith will host Saturday’s brackets.