WELLESLEY, Mass. – Behind the strength of efficient hitting and solid defense, the MIT women's volleyball team defeated host and top seed Wellesley College, 25-17, 26-24, 25-15, in the 2012 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championship on Sunday afternoon. The No. 3 Engineers (30-5) collected their first title since 1990 and fourth overall to earn a spot in the upcoming NCAA Championship Tournament. Junior Kristine Bunker (Falmouth, Mass.) was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after compiling 28 kills, a .313 hitting percentage, and 15 blocks.
MIT's powerful attack produced a hitting percentage of .322 while holding the Blue to a .147 performance. Freshman Ada Taylor (Durham, N.C.) led all players with 15 kills while hitting .600 as Bunker tallied seven kills and three blocks. Junior Tatiana Berger (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) chipped in seven kills as senior Trinity Leonard (Mill Valley, Calif.) posted seven digs, six kills, and two blocks. Freshman Meryl Gibbs (Bellaire, Texas) rounded out the balanced attack with five kills while senior Katie Spielbauer (Lakeview, Mich.) registered 13 digs and two aces. Freshman Lindsey Wang (Cupertino, Calif.) earned six digs and three aces as junior Sharon Hao (San Jose, Calif.) notched two aces. Senior Alyssa Rothman (Plainview, N.Y.) rounded out the squad with 37 assists and six digs.
The visitors took control early, maintaining a three-point cushion for most of the first set. A Taylor kill and a Wellesley attack error gave MIT its largest lead at 15-10. Wellesley managed to narrow the gap to two on a pair of occasions, the last at 16-14. Four consecutive miscues by the hosts fueled the Engineers' 9-3 set-ending run, which featured an ace from junior Emma Gargus (Columbus, Ohio) that put them ahead, 24-17.
Set two was closely played, as it featured seven lead changes with neither team holding more than a two-point advantage the entire way. Wellesley led 15-13 after a Sydney Carfagno (Los Angeles, Calif.) kill, but MIT responded with a 5-1 spurt which featured a kill and an ace from Hao to go along with strikes by Leonard and Bunker. Wellesley battled back, going ahead 24-22 on another hit by Carfagno, but the Engineers rallied with four consecutive points to clinch the frame. Bunker ignited the run with back-to-back kills, followed by a strike from Leonard, and an ace by Hao.
The Cardinal and Gray jumped out to an 8-3 advantage in the third set, but Wellesley battled back as it came within one (13-12) on a Carfagno hit. This was as close as it would get as MIT registered six of the next seven points to gain some breathing room. Wellesley's Carfagno and senior Isabel Custodio (Powell, Ohio) trimmed the deficit to four (19-15), but the Engineers picked up the next six points as a Spielbauer ace clinched the victory.