CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – In a hard-fought battle, No. 4 seeded MIT emerged with a 25-19, 18-25, 25-16, 25-22 victory over No. 5 WPI in a NEWMAC Women's Volleyball Championship Tournament quarterfinal match on Tuesday night. MIT improved to 23-10 on the season and for the second year in a row it will face host and top seed Springfield College on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 1:00 p.m. Visiting WPI finished its campaign with a record of 19-10.
With the first set tied at five, MIT mounted an 8-2 run to take the lead for good. WPI countered by scoring seven of the next 10 points, trimming its deficit to 16-14. A kill from junior Trinity Leonard (Mill Valley, Calif.) and a hitting error gave MIT some breathing room; however, WPI narrowed the gap to three on a trio of occasions, the last at 22-19. Strikes by sophomore Kristine Bunker (Falmouth, Mass.) sandwiched an ace by classmate Sharon Hao (San Jose, Calif.) to end the frame.
WPI quickly established a 6-2 advantage in the second stanza, but MIT battled back and captured a 10-8 edge on a kill by sophomore Rachel Hunt (Arlington Heights, Ill.) and an ace from junior Katie Spielbauer (Lakeview, Mich.). WPI's Elyssa Dorenfeld replied with a kill and ace of her own before MIT posted a 5-2 spurt to go up, 15-12. The visitors then generated a 13-3 run to close the game and even the match at one set apiece.
Like the previous set, WPI had a 6-2 lead and the host Engineers chipped away at the deficit, eventually going ahead, 11-10. After a WPI timeout, both squads traded points until MIT put together a 10-1 run to take control of the set at 23-14. WPI posted the next two points, but MIT took the next two for the win.
In the final frame, WPI held a 6-4 edge which was erased by five unanswered points from MIT. Miscues kept WPI within two points; however, an error, a pair of aces from senior Natasha Jensen (Columbia, Md.) and a kill from Hunt increased MIT's cushion to 16-10 and forced a timeout. Following the break, WPI picked up points in bunches and once again found itself trailing by two (20-18). After its own timeout, MIT scored four of the next five points with back-to-back kills from Bunker resulting in match point. WPI responded with a Kim Woodward kill and two aces from Bailey Sarber, extending the contest and prompting another MIT timeout. Once play resumed, Leonard pounded a kill to secure the victory.
Senior Kelly Schulte (Riverside, Calif.) posted 16 kills and four digs while Bunker finished with eight kills and four blocks. Leonard tallied seven kills, six digs, and three aces as senior Cecily Joujon-Roche (Laguna Hills, Calif.) registered five kills, two blocks, and an ace. Hunt rounded out the attack with six kills while Spielbauer collected 18 digs and one ace. Jensen notched five aces and three digs while sophomore Jess Fessler (Shortsville, N.Y.) tacked on four digs. Junior Alyssa Rothman (Plainview, N.Y.) totaled 27 assists and two blocks as freshman Nicole Gagnier (Atlanta, Ga.) dished out 10 assists.
Sarber paced WPI with 11 kills while Belinda Nwagbara added seven of her own. Kerrin Beovich had five kills, two blocks, and two aces as Holly Ganser bolstered with front row with two blocks. Elyssa Dorenfeld anchored the defense with 17 digs, followed by 11 from Joan Porambo. Alex Rangel compiled 16 assists and three aces while Woodward distributed 12 assists.