Volleyball Eyes Post- Season AwardsBy Paul Dill
The MIT women’s volleyball team began their quest for postseason hardware on Tuesday night with a solid 3-0 sweep of Clark University in the NEWMAC quarterfinals, clinching a perfect 9-0 home record for the season behind their trademark balanced offensive attack.
The #2 seed in the NEWMAC tournament, MIT (32-3) met with #7 Clark (10-19), and needed only half of the first game to find their rhythm. Deadlocked at 12-12, MIT rode the hot firepower of outside hitter Nydia M. Clayton ’04 to a lead they would never surrender. Clayton registered four of her match-high 13 kills on consecutive swings during that run, thoroughly intimidating the Clark defenders. Outside hitter Joy N. Hart ’06 and opposite Arlis A. Reynolds ’06 added four kills each as the Engineers closed out the first game 30-19.
Clark’s attack forced the Engineers to make 25 digs in the first game, with Hart picking up six, and reigning NEWMAC Player of the Week, setter Austin Zimmerman ’06 making. Middle blocker Lauren E. Frick ’03 helped the cause with two of her five blocks.
MIT takes second game
In the second game, the Engineers asserted their authority early and often, opening up leads of 7-3 and 16-9 behind a six-point serving run from middle blocker Kelly A. Martens ’03, punctuated by two of her three aces on the night. Four more kills each from Clayton and Reynolds paced the Engineers to a comfortable 30-14 victory, enabled predominantly by the ball control of middle blocker Caroline D. Jordan ’06 and defensive specialist Jacklyn Y. Wang ’06. The pair helped guide the Engineers to 17 kills and a 0.424 hitting efficiency.
Clark, with their season on the line, sensed the urgency and came out strong in the third game, and MIT found themselves fighting early deficits. A Martens serving run soon returned MIT to form and a 9-8 lead. A time-out broke MIT’s momentum momentarily, and Clark climbed back to a 13-11 lead.
The teams see-sawed back and forth through most of the game, with neither team opening up a lead of more than two points despite three more blistering kills from Clayton. Finally, at 19-19, the Engineers demonstrated their league-leading offense. Consecutive kills by Zimmerman directly off exquisitely placed digs from outside hitter Jill M. Kaup ’03 and a Martens-Clayton double block put the Engineers up 22-19, forcing Clark into their final time-out.
Clark’s hopes crumble
Tasting victory and a semifinal berth, the Engineers collected kills from Clayton, Reynolds, and Martens to open up a 25-22 advantage. The defining moment in the match though came off a perfectly executed free ball play. Hart and Martens ran decoy approach routes to either antenna before Reynolds blasted an emphatic “two” set past a bewildered Clark defense. This capped a 12-kill, 0.364 hitting performance from Reynolds and extinguished any lingering hope on the Clark bench.
The rest of the match was academic, as the Engineers closed the account on the Clark season with a Frick-Zimmerman stuff-block to win 30-26. Zimmerman paced the team with 43 assists and 10 digs while Reynolds and Hart provided 11 and 10 digs, respectively. Martens finished the night with nine kills, six digs, three aces, and two blocks, as closing in on MIT career records for blocks and aces.
The Engineers will travel to Wellesley College Friday night to take on #3 Coast Guard in the semifinal round of the NEWMAC Tournament. In their only meeting this season, MIT defeated Coast Guard 3-1 at home.