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Men...s Vball Wins Pair of NECVA Tourney Matches, Makes Semis

By Paul Dill

The MIT Men’s Volleyball team advanced to the semifinals of the NECVA Championship Tournament last weekend, beating higher seeded Medialle and SUNY New Paltz before falling to Eastern Mennonite.

After earning a post season bid in 2005, the team lost in the first round. This time around they had hopes of not only making it to the post season, but also getting further in the tournament. Going in as the 13th seed in the 16 team field, the Engineers had to face #4 seed and #10 nationally ranked Medaille College in the first round on Friday.

The first game saw MIT take control early and build a 28-22 lead before letting the game slip through their fingers 35-37. The Engineers regrouped and maintained their poise and confidence, winning the next three games 30-27, 30-24, 30-27 for the upset.

With 25 kills, Praveen Pamidimukkala ’08 set a single-season Institute record in kills (506) as he eclipsed the previous mark of 488, which was established last year by Robert M. McAndrew ’05.

T. Scott Pollom ’09 dominated the front row with 15 kills and nine total blocks while Michelangelo A. Raimondi ’06 contributed 12 kills, four assisted blocks, and MIT’s lone ace. Ryan G. Dean ’08 had a strong defensive outing as he collected a team-high 16 digs and three assisted blocks. Jordan X. Wan ’06 posted a double-double with 52 assists and 12 digs.

This win was the first for the Engineers in the NECVA Tournament and only the second postseason win ever for the program. Tech’s other post-season victory was a 3-0 sweep over Eastern Mennonite University in the 1993 EIVA Division III Playoffs.

In Saturday’s quarterfinals, MIT played #5 seed and #13 nationally ranked SUNY New Paltz, who had beaten the injury depleted Engineers earlier in the season 3-2. This time, with a healthy squad, the Engineers swept New Paltz 3-0 (30-24, 30-24, 30-18) to book their place in the tournament’s final four teams.

A balanced scoring attack helped power MIT — Pamidimukkala totaled 11 kills while Dean, Pollom, Alexander L. Borschow ’06, and Raimondi each contributed seven. Matthew Ng ’08 anchored the defense with 12 digs as Pamidimukkala and Wan both tallied seven. Wan also distributed 37 assists in the win.

The Semifinals saw MIT’s historical postseason run came to an end as the team fell to #8 seed and #13 nationally ranked Eastern Mennonite University 0-3 (30-17, 30-25, 31-29). Pollom paced the Engineers with 15 kills and three assisted blocks. Pamidimukkala added 14 kills while Dean accounted for all three of Tech’s aces. Jason S. Park G notched a team-high 6 digs as Wan dished out 41 assists.

MIT’s 2-1 record in the tournament marked its best showing in its six trips to post-season play. The team ended the season with a 23-9 record and a #11 national ranking, the best finish in program history. Both Wan and Pamidimukkala earned All-Tournament Team and All-Division first team honors. Pamidimukkala also was named a Division III All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, a first for an MIT player.