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Volleyball Shows Depth in Win Over Clark

By Travis Johnson

Women’s volleyball had the kind of regular season game that sports teams look forward to: the team won in convincing fashion and everyone got to play in a 30-21, 30-14, 30-14 sweep of Clark University.

Coach Paul Dill cycled through three different lineups that together involved all 13 Engineer players and despite some communication and passing errors, MIT (10-1, 2-0 in NEWMAC) was able to control play throughout and never trailed Clark (6-2, 1-1) beyond the early moments of each game.

MIT set the tone early when its front line used superior skill and height to block two hits in the opening minutes. The engineers ended the match with seven blocks, near their NEWMAC-leading average of 2.4 per game.

Tech pulled ahead on a streak of four consecutive points while Amanda J. Morris ’08 was serving. MIT was actually more effective while serving than while receiving serve. Usually it is an advantage to receive serve because you get the first spike opportunity, but that was not the case on Saturday.

“We still need to work on our serve receive on our passing,” Dill said afterwards. Passing was not always crisp for MIT on Saturday, both from the digger to the setter (Morris) and from Morris to the hitter.

Sloppy MIT play allowed Clark to stay close through the early stages of the first game, but the Engineers were too talented and disciplined to let the Cougars hang around for long and eventually opened up a 17-10 lead that they carried through to a 30-21 game win.

MIT continued to be efficient with its serving offense in the second game and had a seven point run with Katherine C. Rowe ’10, a four point run with Ellen E. Sojka ’08 serving, and another four point run with Carrie C. Buchanan ’08 serving. The Engineers won two long points while Rowe was serving early on, demoralizing Clark. MIT eventually cruised to a 30-14 win.

The third game started to look like a blowout when MIT jumped out to a 12-1 lead. But after a Clark timeout the Cougars calmed down and played nearly even with the Engineers the rest of the way.

The closest Clark got was a 20-13 deficit, which Barden E. Cleeland ’10 widened with a perfectly placed tip onto a corner of the court vacated by the Cougar defense. MIT rolled on from there, allowing only one more Clark point and closing the game and match with a 30-14 win.

Cleeland, who leads the NEWMAC in hitting percentage (0.421) and blocks (1.25), is part of a group of freshmen making a big impact early in their first season. Cleeland, Rowe, Alexandra T. May ’10, Katrina M. Ellison ’10, and Catherine Melnikow ’10 have all played well early on.

“The freshman class has really been a nice high-impact class this year as far as not only being able to step in and do some starting roles but also just some really good role play from all of them,” said Coach Dill.

So far this season MIT has played excellent volleyball, losing only four games and one extremely close match. They are playing well enough to win another NEWMAC title and will find out a lot more about where they stand this weekend when 13 top teams come to the MIT Invitational.

The Engineers play Colby College and Bridgewater State Friday night; both games will be a rematch of last year’s NCAA tournament, at which MIT beat Bridgewater State but was eliminated by Colby College.