MIT Earns At-Large NCAA Bid; Reaches Finals of NEWMACs

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Outside hitter Rose Zhong ’08 digs the ball during the second game of MIT’s 3-0 semifinal win against the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Friday afternoon in Rockwell Cage. MIT lost the championship match the next day against Wellesley, 3-1.
David M. Templeton—The Tech
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Outside/middle hitter Jennifer Li ’11 slams a spike during MIT’s 3-0 semifinal win against the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Friday afternoon in Rockwell Cage.
David M. Templeton—The Tech

The MIT women’s volleyball team earned an at-large bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III tournament, despite losing in the finals of the conference tournament Saturday. Tech, the host for this weekend’s NCAA New England Regionals, plays its first regional match on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. in Rockwell Cage.

After defeating U.S. Coast Guard Academy in a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference tournament semifinal match on Friday, MIT fell to Wellesley College in the tournament’s championship match. With the win, Wellesley earned an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

MIT sweeps Coast Guard, advances to championship round

The Engineers followed up their Oct. 30 NEWMAC quarterfinal win over Mount Holyoke with a three-game semifinal sweep of Coast Guard by a score of 30-24, 30-28, 33-31.

With the opening game tied at seven, a tip by Barden E. Cleeland ’10 sparked a 6-1 run that gave MIT the lead for the rest of the game. The Bears (20-6) were able to close the gap to one on two occasions, the last occurring at 18-17. Tech gradually established a six-point advantage (26-20), but Coast Guard quickly cut its deficit in half. MIT captured three out of the next four points with a spike by Amanda J. Morris ’08 to seal the game.

Corrine McCormack’s strong jump serve helped turn a 5-4 deficit into an 8-5 advantage for Coast Guard in the second game. The Bears’ lead eventually grew to six at 16-10, and they maintained a slim cushion for most of the game. MIT continued to attack and evened the contest at 24. Coast Guard captured the next point, and the Engineers won the next two to regain the lead. The Bears once again tied the game, but it would be the last time as back-to-back points put MIT ahead, 28-26. Each side traded points to close out the game.

In the final game, Coast Guard slowly crept out to a three-point advantage, which it maintained as late as 22-19. A service error led to a five-point run that featured an ace by Morris and two blocks and a kill from Cleeland. Undeterred, the Bears countered with three straight points that evened the contest at 25. Both squads exchanged points before Coast Guard went ahead, 28-27. Following their own timeout, the Engineers posted the equalizer on a strike by Katrina M. Ellison ’10. The Bears picked up match point, but back-to-back blocks gave MIT a 30-29 lead. After trading points, a kill by Jennifer Li ’11 put the Engineers up for good as they closed out the match on their ensuing serve.

Li paced MIT’s attack with 13 kills, followed by Cleeland with 12, Katherine C. Rowe ’10 with 11, and Rose Zhong ’08 with 10. Morris tallied 37 assists, 16 digs, and two aces, and Carrie C. Buchanan ’08 racked up 19 digs. Zhong and Rowe each contributed five blocks, while Zhong completed the double-double with 12 digs. Cleeland and Li rounded out the blocking corps with four and three blocks, respectively.

Wellesley upsets MIT, captures volleyball championship

MIT could not capitalize on its finals appearance, falling to Wellesley College 18-30, 30-28, 30-28, 30-24, in the finals of the NEWMAC tournament. The victory gave Wellesley its sixth NEWMAC Women’s Volleyball Championship title.

Libero Buchanan recorded 21 digs in the loss, becoming MIT’s all-time leader in career digs. Arlis A. Reynolds ’06 previously held the school record with 1,949 digs.

The Engineers (34-2) opened the match with seven unanswered points. Following its own timeout, the Blue (27-6) got on the scoreboard by after an MIT hitting miscue. Tech maintained its momentum, quickly extending its lead to double-digits and cruising to the win.

In the second game, the Blue generated a four-point spurt that resulted in a 7-4 advantage. Each side traded points until the Engineers scored three in a row to even the game at 11. Wellesley broke up the run on the ensuing serve, but MIT tallied four of the next five points to establish a 16-13 edge. A pair of hitting errors and an ace by Jessica Duff tied the game for the fourth time. Both squads posted two points apiece before the Engineers tallied four straight for their largest lead (24-19). The Blue countered with an 11-4 run to even the match at one game each.

A trio of three-point spurts helped power MIT to a 10-5 advantage in the third game. Trailing 14-9, strong serving by Lauren Rasmussen put Wellesley ahead at 16-14. The game became a back-and-forth affair, featuring 10 ties and nine lead changes. A tip by Li gave the Engineers a 28-27 edge, but Tracy Waldman’s strike sparked Wellesley to victory.

In the final game, Wellesley established a 7-3 lead, which MIT countered with a 7-2 run. The Blue then scored 10 out of the next 14 points to reclaim the advantage at 19-15. The Engineers stayed within striking distance, closing the gap to one at 20-19. A 4-1 rally gave Wellesley enough breathing room to hold on for the win.

Morris tallied 42 assists, 16 digs, and four blocks, while Li chipped in 10 kills, five blocks, and two aces. Rowe and Cleeland both posted six blocks as Rowe totaled 11 kills and Cleeland added 10. Zhong amassed 19 digs and nine kills, while Ellison collected 10 digs.