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Volleyball Beats Mt. Holyoke in Dominating Three Game Sweep

By Travis Johnson

Women’s volleyball advanced to the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference semifinal by beating Mt. Holyoke in two blowout games and a close one Tuesday night in Rockwell Cage.

The gap between the number two seed Engineers (31-4, 7-2 NEWMAC) and the number seven seed Lyons (9-15, 2-7) in both talent and training meant the outcome was never in doubt even when MIT mistakes kept Mt. Holyoke close in the second game.

Alexandra T. May ’10 and Katherin C. Rowe ’10 combined on a block that gave MIT a 4-3 lead early in the first game, a lead the Engineers never relinquished on their way to a 30-15 win.

The Lyons defense was no match for the precision MIT offense that has been finely tuned over the long season. When run correctly, MIT plays can rarely be handled by the best teams in the region, and the Lyons are below average at best.

The result was that the Engineers scored even when their plays were a little off and ended the evening with a hitting percentage of 0.370, much higher than their league leading regular season 0.243 average.

MIT had a bit of a letdown in the second game after jumping out to an early 7-3 lead. Seizing momentum when a MIT serve hit the net, Holyoke’s Briana Shepherd hit two aces, and an Engineer dig went over the net to the perfect spot for a Lyons kill that evened the score 7-7.

For the rest of the game the Engineers would pull ahead by 3-4 points before an unforced error gave the serve and a point to their opponents. Six MIT serves were too short or too long and five hits went out in the second game alone.

Despite the mistakes, MIT kept control of the game and never trailed because Holyoke’s offense was so inept that they only scored 10 points beyond the 11 gifts from MIT.

The Engineers went on a 7-2 run to end the game at 30-23, and continued that momentum into the third game. After a vaguely close 7-3 start, MIT went on a 13-1 run to make the score a sadistic 20-4.

MIT hitting, particularly by May and Frances M. Rogoz ’07, was unstoppable in the third game. The team got 13 kills on 18 attemps with only one error, yielding an enormous 0.667 average and a 30-9 win.

May and Rogoz combined for 24 kills on 44 attemps with only three errors in the match, and delivered pyschologically important hits throughout the game. Both hit harder and more accurately than anyone on Mt. Holyoke, with the exception of Emily Groth, by an order of magnitude.

Groth leads the NEWMAC in kills with 5.32 per game and the Holyoke offense sets her up nearly every play. But MIT blockers were ready for Groth and she wasn’t a big factor Tuesday night.

MIT, by contrast, has no players atop the NEWMAC but as a team leads four categories: hit percentage (0.243), kills (14.99), assists (12.90), and blocks (2.53).

The next match for the Engineers is a semifinal against Springfield tonight in Coast Guard’s gym. MIT swept their match earlier in the season, but will need to avoid the mistakes they made in Tuesday’s second game if they want to replicate the September win.

Should they beat Springfield, MIT will play either Wellesley or Coast Guard in the conference championship, with the winner guaranteed a spot in the NCAA New England Regional that will take place starting Thursday, Nov. 9 in Rockwell Cage. MIT lost to both Coast Guard and Wellesley in five-game marathons earlier this season.