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Senior night ended in triumph for the men’s volleyball team, as the Engineers defeated Harvard University for the first time since 1999 in front of an energized Rockwell Cage on Wednesday night. After dropping the first game, MIT came back to defeat its rivals from down the river, 22-30, 30-26, 30-28, and 30-27.

As part of the annual senior night celebration, the team commemorated the careers of its five seniors before the game, with younger players introducing and giving short speeches about each senior. Combining serious praise with a little humor, the team and fans showed their gratitude towards five of the most influential players in the program’s history, setting the stage for what would become yet another memorable night in their volleyball careers.

A short four years ago, Praveen Pamidimukkala ’08, Ryan G. Dean ’08, Matthew Ng ’08, and Stephen D. Ray ’08 came to MIT and joined a men’s team in flux. This core group, which soon would be joined by Kenneth K. Rosche ’08 to round out the current senior class, stayed together and developed MIT into the powerhouse it is today, consistently performing well in the challenging North East Collegiate Volleyball Association New England Division.

Much of this success can also be credited to head coach Paul Dill and his experienced coaching staff. Dill has done well in developing the program, starting with the current seniors, his first recruiting class at MIT. Earlier this month, Dill became the first coach in the program’s history to reach 100 career wins.

For the seniors, this game didn’t mark the end of their home careers, but it still provided some of the most special moments of the season.

MIT pulled out to an early 6-3 lead in the first game, but Harvard took control late, 25-19. The visitors held that lead and took the first game 30-22.

In the second game, Malcolm K. Bean ’11 set the tone early with a block to take the first point. With Eugene Jang ’09 serving, and strong net play from T. Scott Pollom ’09 and Dean, MIT built its lead to 13-7.

The advantage didn’t last that long though, as Harvard came back before another block by Dean tied the game at 20-20. Later after a long rally, a kill by Pamidimukkala, last week’s NECVA Player of the Week, brought the score to 27-24. The Engineers took the second game 30-24.

MIT held its momentum in the third game with more strong play at net. Three straight blocks brought their lead to 8-2, and artful serving by Jang kept MIT ahead 14-7.

A Harvard timeout seemed to end MIT’s momentum, but a drop shot by Bean followed by an ace by Pamidimukkala brought MIT’s lead back up to 21-15. Seniors Dean, described by teammates as the heart and soul of the team, and Ng, whose defense continues to impress audiences, both were steadying factors for the team.

With the game becoming tight, the Engineers brought in co-captain Ray to serve, as they have done in many pressure situations throughout the year. Ray responded beautifully, surprising Harvard with an ace. The strong serving of Harvard’s Brady Weissbourd though brought the score close again, but another kill from Pamidimukkala ended it 30-28.

In the fourth game, a kill from Garrett L. Winther ’11 tied it at 22, and with Pollom serving, Tech went on a run. With the crowd on their feet, Michael Demyttenaere ’10 unleashed a spike that Harvard couldn’t handle, and MIT won the game 30-27, securing their fourth win in a row.