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Intercollegiate Volleyball Club Wins over Eastern Nazarene

By Tony Lee
team member

Depleted by the loss of key starters and bench players from last year's squad, the Intercollegiate Volleyball Club faced questions about depth and starting outside hitting as they entered their first preseason tournament on Nov. 22 at Eastern Nazarene College.

The club rose to the challenge with an exhilarating, hard-fought win over Eastern Nazarene in the finals to claim their first tournament victory of the year.

MIT opened pool play with a characteristically slow start against unheralded but scrappy Stonehill College. Plagued by hitting errors, poor blocking and bouts of inconsistent passing, the team barely eked out a 1715 win.

The team roared back to post a shutout in the second game, highlighted by the debut of rookie Paul Sherman G whose first play was an authoritative half-dunk, half-block of a Stonehill attack.

The club gained momentum as they cleaned up their game, rolling over UConn 158 in game one of the second match. UConn rallied to force a 1010 tie in game two, but stalled as IVC cruised from there to a 1510 victory.

IVC kept winning as strong serving proved to be the difference in the third match. Led by aces from Maurice Chu G and rookie Alex Andalis G, MIT buzzsawed through hapless Wentworth Institute of Technology 155, 155.

Eastern Nazarene proved tough

Eastern Nazarene College proved to be the toughest match in pool, handing IVC losses of 1215 and 915 in the last games of pool play. ENC boasted a small, athletic lineup with solid defense and explosive hitters at all positions.

In the first game, hitting errors proved costly as ENC jumped out to a quick four point cushion and then simply traded points with IVC who could not string together a run to take back the lead. Game 2 was a similar affair as IVC struggled to overcome errors and block effectively against the smooth ENC offense. ENC again surged ahead to a quick lead and then pulled slowly away for the victory.

The two losses dropped MIT to second place in the pool which may have been a blessing in disguise. As a result of their seeding, MIT faced Tufts University, a team they had beaten in earlier scrimmages, in the first round of the playoffs. The pool play losses to ENC clearly helped refocus IVC, as they played a much sharper match against Tufts. The backrow, led by Chu and Gene Van Buren G, played inspired defense, frustrating the Tufts hitters by consistently digging hard-driven balls and tips.

Parry J. R. Husbands G came alive, stepping up to deliver several key sideouts and points from his opposite hitter position. Outside hitter Mitch Price G also began to find his rhythm and started banging balls over the shorter, overmatched line blockers. The improved defense and hitting resulted in a methodical 158, 158 victory for IVC and a rematch with ENC in the finals.

The first game of the best of three game finals was a closely contested match. IVC played decently, carrying over much of their momentum from the semifinals, but the result was still the same, an 1115 loss. Confronted with elimination and facing the difficult prospect of overcoming a team that had already beaten them three times, IVC responded, turning the tide with their first complete effort of the tournament. Price, Husbands and outside hitter Sam Liu G continued to start the offense with error-free passing.

Setter Koji Asari G took over from there as he began exploiting the smaller block of ENC, running quick right side attacks to middle blocker Jim Fleming G. Not to be outdone, middle blocker Steve Seel G took over on defense, adjusting his block to force mediocre shot selection by ENC. His monstrous solo block of a backrow spike by ENC's star hitter was a turning point in the match as IVC fought to a 1510 win.

Nerve-wracking third game

In a nerve-wracking, back and forth game three, IVC continued to play with intensity. Tough serving finally started to wear down ENC's passers, forcing ENC into a more predictable offense. Fleming continued to romp, hitting close to .900 and dominating offensively at the net.

When he wasn't doing the damage, Liu, in his first start at outside hitter in a tournament, came up big, using his deceptive swing to split or tool the ENC block. IVC took advantage and powered to a 139 lead. ENC refused to die though, fighting back to 1413 before Fleming sealed the win with a spike off an errant dig.

The tournament victory was particularly sweet for IVC, who have now won five of their last six tournaments. Lacking the dominant outside hitters of past teams, the team responded with a total group effort in all phases of the game to win and every player elevated their game in the finals. IVC plays next in the MIT Invitational Tournament Dec. 7 at Rockwell Cage which promises to be an even tougher challenge as top teams from New England and New York will attend.