Volleyball Beats Coast Guard, Earns NEWMAC Crown
By Travis Johnson
ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
MIT Women’s Volleyball found itself in a familiar spot this Saturday. Up two games to one, with home court advantage in the postseason on the line, the Engineers were once again playing for the conference title against the Coast Guard Bears.
Last season, Coast Guard took games four and five, along with the title, sending MIT on a long bus ride back to Cambridge.
This time, MIT faced a 26-29 deficit, one point away from a decisive fifth game. Coast Guard was hot, and the similarities to last year were growing. But MIT broke serve and scored three straight points to take the lead 30-29 before eventually winning the game, their first regular season NEWMAC title, by the score of 34-32.
With the energy of a tight finish still flowing through both the players and crowd just after the match ended, Rockwell Cage looked and sounded like a state high school basketball final.
“I couldn’t be prouder of them,” said Coach Paul Dill after things calmed down a bit. “We haven’t won the regular season [title] in my career here, so I’m over the moon for them, especially the seniors.”
Even President Susan Hockfield and her family seemed excited as they came over to congratulate the team.
It was clear from warm-ups that the Engineers had an intensity advantage over their opponent. They had bounce in their steps and smiles on their faces that Coast Guard didn’t match.
Coast Guard may have been a little too comfortable with how well they were playing recently. They were on a 13-match winning streak, during which they only lost three games and weren’t prepared for the early push by MIT.
“We were really riding on a lot of adrenaline in the first game,” Dill said. Their adrenaline, combined with some sloppy play by Coast Guard, gave the Engineers an easy 30-15 win.
Part of the enthusiasm came from a pregame Senior Day presentation for defensive specialist Arlis A. Reynolds ’06, hitter Caroline D. Jordan ’06, and setter Austin Zimmerman ’06. Together the seniors have formed the core of the team for their time here and honoring them beforehand served to motivate the team.
MIT’s momentum carried over to the beginning of the second game as they jumped to a 7-3 lead. But Coast Guard hitters started tipping the ball over the MIT defenders, trying to land it before the back line of defense.
The Coast Guard tip took the initiative away from MIT and brought the Bears back from their early deficit for a 30-22 win.
MIT adjusted to Coast Guard’s tip attack in the third game by “just playing more aggressively, especially on serving,” Dill said afterwards. One of their most effective servers was Lindsay E. Hunting ’09, who got MIT started in each game with two or three point off her serve.
Coast Guard began committing more errors as the game wore on. Their star, Corinne McCormack, hit several balls long. Meanwhile, the constant pressure from MIT prevented their offense from setting up. MIT took the third game by the score of 30-20.
The fourth game was tight until late. While the seniors played well throughout, they really stepped up in this frame. Reynolds’ digs, Zimmerman’s sets, and Jordan’s hits helped the Engineers dramatically.
With MIT down 26-28 and Coast Guard serving, Dill called time-out to set up a play where Jordan and another hitter crossed behind Zimmerman, throwing the Bear defense off balance. But during the play, Jordan fell down and Zimmerman ended up setting to an empty corner.
That put MIT in a pressure situation, one point away from losing the game and going to a fifth and deciding frame, in which MIT is 2-5 this season.
The pressure didn’t affect MIT. Hunting, despite being a freshman, had the cold blood of a senior. She delivered four good serves during the set. The rest of the team was equally flawless and pushed through in the 34-32 win.
As Dill put it, “We just held our own, and they got a little scared on their side, and we stayed aggressive.”