A look back at women’s volleyball’s banner season

MIT women’s volleyball team capped a dominant season in which it posted a perfect 10-0 record in conference play with a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championship victory. This was the fifth time in program history that the Engineers clinched the championship and the first since 2012.

Any championship is special but this one holds a special place for Head Coach Paul Dill, who has been head coach of the women’s volleyball team since 1996.

“This was the first time in my 21-year career that the team not only went undefeated in conference, but also won the conference tournament at home. I could not have been prouder of this group in accomplishing that extremely difficult challenge given that we play in such a strong conference,” Coach Dill reflected.

From the seniors to the freshmen, this was their first championship and one they thoroughly deserved. But when it came to sharing the accolades, Captain Tori Wuthrich ’17 went beyond teammates and coaches.

“A conference championship is something we’ve been working toward for a long time so it was definitely really rewarding to accomplish it. I think it speaks to not only the work that our team and coaches did this year, but also the efforts of alumni who have helped shape the team,” Wuthrich said.

MIT finished with the best record in the regular season for the past three years but the NEWMAC championship had eluded them. The journey to this season’s championship began in the offseason.

Coach Dill said, “The team really set this as a goal right after last season and the proceeded to put in a tremendous amount of work during the off season and then again during the regular season in order to put themselves in a position to compete for the conference title.”

Not only were the Engineers perfect in conference play, seven of those games were sweeps, and they dropped a meager four sets in all.

Wuthrich hailed the team’s ability to remain focused throughout the game.

“I give a lot of credit to the mental toughness of our team. Something we have really gotten better at is keeping the level of play consistently high. Sometimes if you win the first set by a lot, it can be difficult to come out in the second set and win by the same margin because the tendency is to let up. I am proud of our team because we have been focused. Even if we won the first set by a lot we maintain really high expectations for ourselves,” Wuthrich explained.

Last season MIT hosted the NEWMAC tournament and was stunned by Babson in the semifinals. As fate would have it those two teams collided at the same stage of the tournament at Rockwell Cage again this season. Was there a sense of revenge?

“Revenge matches are always nice. We definitely wanted to beat them. But I didn’t think it was going to be the same. It is a different team every year,” right-hitter Abby Bertics ’19 noted.

For sustained success over the course of a season, roster depth is important. Wuthrich explained how this roster was built for success.

“Our team has a lot of depth and I think that is an advantage for us. I think we have players who can play multiple positions. We have a lot of people who can come off the bench and contribute right away,” Wuthrich noted.

As with any championship team, there are always big players who need to come up clutch in the big games. This team boasted two of the best players in their respective positions to have represented MIT — libero Tori Wuthrich and outside hitter Megan Gebhard ’17.

Gebhard led the team in kills (436) this season, finishing her career second all-time in kills (1625) and kill-per-set (3.97). On the defensive side, Wuthrich led the team with 582 digs this season, finishing her career with 1975 digs (3rd all-time) and 4.21 digs-per-set (2nd all-time) respectively.

As the team looks to the future to continue its regular season dominance, retain the NEWMAC championship, and make a run at the NCAA playoffs, there are big shoes to fill.

Thankfully, they have a lot of talent waiting in the wings, perhaps none more so than Abby Bertics. Bertics finished the season with 273 kills, earning a place in the New England all-regional team.

“Abby is extremely driven and passionate about volleyball. She didn’t a miss a pre-practice rep which is completely optional. She has the most heart out of everyone on the team,” Gebhard said. She went on to add, “I am just looking forward to seeing them go out there next year and accomplish the things we weren’t able to this year.”