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Women’s Volleyball Bests Smith As Reynolds Sets MIT Records

By Charles Morton

Arlis A. Reynolds ’06 added to her collection of record-breaking performances to keep MIT perfect in NEWMAC play with a 3-0 (30-19, 30-13, 30-19) rout of Smith College Tuesday night in Rockwell Cage. The victory set up a Saturday home showdown against Coast Guard with the winner (for the second straight year) clinching the regular season championship and the privilege of hosting the conference tournament.

Reynolds, whose 29 digs helped the Engineers hold the Lyons to a team hitting performance of just 0.014, eclipsed an 11-year-old mark for digs in a three-game match previously held by Pareen Dhalla ’95. Offensively, Caroline D. Jordan ’06, Frances M. Rogoz ’07, and Briana J. Stephenson ’07 each registered double figures in kills as the Engineers needed just over an hour to register one of their most consistent and convincing victories of the season.

For the second time in the 2005 campaign, MIT (26-7, 8-0 NEWMAC) recovered from a weekend upset to soundly defeat a conference opponent. Held to a team hitting performance of just 0.029 in Saturday’s contest at Smith, the Engineers looked to be in danger of repeating that season-low performance in the opening game, staking the Lyons (19-6, 5-3 NEWMAC) to a 3-0 lead on a pair of hitting errors.

Despite recovering to take a 4-3 lead on Lindsay Hunting’s serve, the Engineers had not yet secured the momentum, allowing Smith to maintain a three-point cushion for several rotations until Jordan knotted the score at 17-17 by disrupting the Smith offense with a series of deep float serves (the unpredictable float serve is volleyball’s equivalent of the knuckleball). Austin Zimmerman ’06 continued the service line attack with a seven-point run, as Rose Zhong ’08 and Stephenson combined to convert four free ball opportunities into points to open up a 25-18 Tech lead.

The Lyons, nonplussed by the dramatic momentum shift from Saturday’s match, mustered only one more point in the opening frame, and Reynolds closed out a 30-19 game win with a five-point service run. The Engineers finished the first game with 22 scores through kills after having only found the floor 35 times in Saturday’s entire match.

Jordan’s service rotation proved to be a turning point in the second game as well, when her three-point run opened up a 7-4 Tech lead thanks to kills from Stephenson and Zhong. The Engineers beat Smith at their own game, out-digging the conference’s leading defensive side by a significant margin to extend the lead in several long rallies. Later, Jordan turned a 17-10 margin into a 25-10 rout, during which Smith tried in vain to adjust their serve receive formation. Appropriately, Reynolds closed the second set with an ace. The 30-13 game margin was Smith’s most lop-sided defeat of the 2005 campaign.

The Engineers continued the rout in the third game, with Reynolds collecting 12 digs and Rogoz blasting six of her match-high 13 kills without an error. Reynolds turned a 7-7 tie into an 11-7 advantage during her first trip to the service line, thanks to a service ace and a clever kill from Zimmerman, who turned a courageous defensive sequence from the Lyons into a heartbreaking defeat with a first-touch set deep into the Smith backcourt.

When Smith libero Megumi Sasaki’s errant touch on a Rogoz blast looked to be a sure kill, NEWMAC dig leader Kate M. Sorensen ’08 pursued the ball beyond midcourt, evading the second official and nearly colliding with MIT head coach Paul Dill to return the ball to their side of the net. On the ensuing free ball, Zimmerman recognized the disarray in the Smith defense and spoiled the Lyons’ efforts by sending her shot within inches of the endline rather than allowing Smith to recover defensively with a full offensive sequence.

Tech extended its lead to 19-13 before Reynolds’ second trip to the service line put the contest out of reach. With a match-high fourth ace, Reynolds put the Engineers up 24-13 en route to a 30-19 victory. Zimmerman finished the match with 36 assists as the Engineers hit 0.248 as a team. Jordan and Stephenson each tallied 11 kills, with Jordan needing only 26 swings to record her match-high 0.385 killing performance.

Saturday, the Engineers will close the regular season and host Coast Guard (21-3, 7-1 NEWMAC) at 1 p.m. in Rockwell Cage. Last year’s meeting at Coast Guard was a marathon match of two unbeaten teams, with the Engineers losing in five games after having held a 2-0 lead. Earlier this season, Tech swept Coast Guard in the championship match of the MIT Invitational.