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Women’s Volleyball Loses Heartbreaker to Eastern

By Travis Johnson

Two and a half hours of volleyball Friday night boiled down to a 14-14 tie in the deciding fifth and final game. The next team to lead by two would take the match. Two well-executed offensive plays later, that team was Eastern University, sending MIT home with a hotly-contested loss.

The Engineers seemed understandably demoralized afterwards. “It is extremely frustrating. This is not the first time this has happened this season, so we’re definitely feeling the burn right now,” said Briana J. Stephenson ’07.

Coach Paul Dill, now the winningest coach in MIT Women’s Volleyball history, however, was proud of his team’s heart. “It went down to the wire and we fought all the way,” he said, and it was a “great experience for the team in preparation for post season.”

Earlier that evening, the same Engineers had beaten a tough Bridgewater State College team in a close three games to one match, culminating in an 11-point run to finish the final game 30-14.

MIT took that momentum into the early stages against nationally ranked Eastern University, jumping out to an early 19-11 lead on well-timed offensive plays. But as so often happened Friday, Eastern fought back and took advantage of MIT errors to score 10 unanswered points and take a 28-25 lead, two points away from sealing the first game.

An Eastern error turned the serve back to MIT and their all-time ace leader Arlis A. Reynolds ’06, who broke the record last week with seven aces against Wheaton College. Reynolds hit a line drive aimed perfectly for the back corner that Eastern couldn’t handle, getting her team to within one, at 27-28.

The defense then stepped it up from there, digging hit after hit, getting the chances it needed to secure a 33-31 win in the first game.

Game two was all Eastern, as MIT made unforced errors and couldn’t get through the Eagles defense on their way to a 21-30 defeat.

With the match tied 1-1, a lot was riding on the third game, and it turned out to be as close as a volleyball game can get. There were 15 ties, with the largest lead a slim three points early on for Eastern. Once again, the normal 30 points weren’t enough to win.

The intensity in Rockwell Cage was really building, with fans on both sides nervous and loud. Two Eagle serves went astray down the stretch and MIT capitalized, taking the game 33-31.

The two final games were much in the mold of the third; tie after tie, no team had a clear advantage. Austin Zimmerman ’06 coordinated the blocking and offense as MIT kept a small edge throughout both the fourth and fifth games. However, crucial errors and Eastern’s relentless attacks cost MIT the lead in both of those games. The fourth game ended with an Eagle hit followed by a MIT mis-hit.

Tied 13-13 in the fifth game, Engineer defense watched an Eagle serve land between them. Eastern then closed the 16-14 gap on two well-executed plays.

Dill summed up the game well, saying, “we just played tight on a few critical points, and that cost us. Otherwise, we performed very well.”

MIT split its games Saturday as well, defeating nationally ranked SUNY-Cortland 3-1 but falling to Tufts 2-3. All four were non-conference games; the Engineers now hold a record of 17-5 (4-0 in the NEWMAC).