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Women’s NCAA Loss Ends Successful Run

By Paul Dill

TEAM COACH

The Engineers’ quest for a “Sweet 16” bid after earning their first NCAA tournament berth in four years fell just short last Friday, as a loss to second-seeded Gordon ended the most successful MIT women’s volleyball campaign in nearly two decades. At 34-5, MIT posted the best record for the program since 1984, with a first round victory over Johnson & Wales marking their first NCAA tournament triumph since 1986.

After earning one of only five at-large bids nationwide, MIT was seeded third in the New England region, looking forward to the chance to avenge one of their rare regular season losses, a 3-0 setback against Gordon (34-1) on Sept. 28. Behind six kills from outside hitter Joy N. Hart ’06, the Engineers overcame a sluggish opening game performance to level the match at 1-1 with a 30-28 victory. Opposite Arlis A. Reynolds ’06 contributing eight of her team-high 20 digs to help contain a Fighting Scots attack led by New England Region Player of the Year Lauren Barnes, a Gordon junior, who led all hitters with 27 kills.

Gordon edges out MIT in four

The Engineers, having claimed the second game without really finding their characteristic rhythm, could not sustain the momentum and fell in the third frame by a 30-21 score. The fourth set saw eleven lead changes and looked to be within reach as the Engineers led 23-21, but a decisive defensive display brought the Fighting Scots level at 25-25 and a brisk run of points sealed the Engineers’ defeat 30-25.

A variety of off-speed attacks from the Gordon hitters consistently forced the Engineers into difficult transition plays, upsetting the normally balanced MIT offense. Hart took a whopping 50 attempts in the four games, collecting a team-high 17 kills, with the next closest contributor being middle blocker Kelly A. Martens ’03 with 11 kills on 37 attempts. Reynolds added nine kills on just 27 attempts, and outside hitter Nydia M. Clayton ’04 and New England Region Rookie of the Year setter Austin Zimmerman ’06 offered seven kills each to round out an Engineer attack that registered an encouraging 59 kills.

Martens takes kill, block records

Defensively, the Engineers received help from Hart’s 19 digs, 15 digs from middle blocker Caroline D. Jordan ’06, and 12 from defensive specialist Jacklyn Y. Wang ’06. Martens led the Engineers at the net with three blocks, closing a distinguished career as MIT’s career leader in kills (1653) and blocks (365), displacing alumnae Betsy Sailhamer ’98 and Kamilah Alexander ’96, respectively. Middle blocker Lauren E. Frick ’03, Zimmerman, and Clayton each provided two “roofs” as well.

Engineers defeat J&W

In NCAA opening round action, the Engineers thoroughly trounced Johnson & Wales (25-13). Overcoming early tentative play that saw them trailing 20-9 in the opening set, they stormed back to a 30-28 victory behind six of Clayton’s match-high 15 kills on just 23 swings to hit at an authoritative 0.565 clip.

The second set saw the Engineers assert their superiority, as five more kills from Clayton and four of Martens’ 11 kills paced MIT to a robust 0.344 hitting efficiency en route to a 30-11 rout, with Hart and outside hitter Jill M. Kaup ’03 combining for another six points on the attack.

MIT closed the match in style 30-21, as libero Alice H. Chou ’05 and defensive specialist Jennifer Teng ’05 saw their first tournament action, collecting three digs, and setter/opposite Jenny C. Alexander ’06 ripped two kills and added a block in Reynolds’ stead. Never challenged by the Johnson & Wales offense, all six Engineer starters registered at least six digs, with Reynolds leading the defense with 12 and Jordan providing 10. Martens and Zimmerman each added three blocks, with Frick and Clayton adding two apiece.

Future looks bright

Despite graduating Martens, Frick, and Kaup this season, the Engineers look forward to continuing their dominance in the region in 2003 behind the depth of the ’06 contingent and Clayton’s offensive firepower.

Such a successful season would not be complete without players garnering personal accolades. Martens added to her already crowded mantle with a selection to the Verizon CoSIDA Academic All-American All-District First Team, and Martens and Zimmerman were named to the New England All-Region Second Team.