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Volleyball Ends Regular Season With 7 Straight Dominant Wins

By Charles Morton

Catherine Melnikow ’10 sent a blast from the back row deep into the Westfield State back court on match point to clinch the MIT women’s volleyball team’s 30th victory in its regular season final on Saturday, marking the second time since 1988 the team has reached that record.

The Engineers (30-4, 7-2 NEWMAC) fought off the scrappy Owls (14-15) squad to earn victories in the first two sets by margins of 31-29 and 30-28 behind 11 kills by Alexandra T. May ’10.

MIT then registered 20 kills in the final game to earn a comfortable 30-22 win, capping off a 3-0 week that included straight-set victories over NEWMAC foes Mount Holyoke (9-14, 2-7 NEWMAC) and Babson (8-16, 2-7 NEWMAC).

Middle hitter Katherine C. Rowe ’10 was the Engineers’ most efficient weapon in the match, dropping 12 kills on 17 attempts with just two errors for an 0.588 performance. Defensively, setter Amanda J. Morris ’08 led the squad with 19 digs, followed by libero Carrie C. Buchanan ’08 with 14.

Middle hitter Ellen E. Sojka ’08 was Tech’s most dangerous server, scoring four aces on just eight attempts through a sequence of short and deep floaters that kept the Owls’ receivers off-balance. Morris distributed 41 assists to nine different Engineer hitters while adding three kills of her own.

In earlier Saturday action, the Engineers dispatched the Lyons of Mount Holyoke College in a brisk 30-19, 30-10, 30-15 sweep to clinch the number two seed in the NEWMAC tournament. Outside hitter Frances M. Rogoz ’07 led all attackers with an error-free 17-for-32 (0.531) performance, and May was again among Morris’s favorite targets, smashing 16 kills of her own. Rowe and Sojka added seven kills apiece to balance Tech’s fast-paced transition offense.

May and Buchanan anchored the backline, picking up 15 and 14 digs, respectively. Morris again contributed 41 assists and three kills to the attack.

With 59 kills against Westfield State and 56 against Mount Holyoke, the Engineers extended a dominant offensive stretch over the last two weeks, averaging 17.6 kills per game and hitting at an 0.285 clip during a seven-match win streak. May has paced the offense with 90 kills and 5.42 points per game, while Rogoz and Rowe have smashed 67 kills each and Rowe led all hitters with an 0.380 average and all blockers with 1.28 blocks per game.

Buchanan leads the Engineer defense with 79 digs during the streak, and defensive specialists Rose Zhong ’08 and Lindsay E. Hunting ’09 have scored 11 and 10 aces, respectively.

Tech looks to take the first step toward a NEWMAC tournament championship and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament tonight with a quarterfinal match against Mount Holyoke in Rockwell Cage at 7 p.m.

MIT, ranked second in the region behind NEWMAC rival Coast Guard, will also host this year’s New England Regional bracket of the NCAA Division III tournament beginning Thursday, Nov. 9, also in Rockwell Cage.