Rochester, N.Y. (April 12) – MIT sophomore Thomas Nelson (San Ramon, Calif.) highlighted the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) postseason accolades collected by the Engineers as he became just the second student-athlete in program history to be named as the UVC Libero/Defensive Specialist of the Year.
Nelson, who also earned a spot on the UVC All-Conference Second Team, was joined by senior Tavish Smith (Laguna Beach, Calif.) and juniors Yize Dong (Moraga, Calif.) and Skyler Kaufman (Needham, Mass.) on the All-Conference teams as Smith, Dong and Kaufman earned Honorable Mention honors. With four student-athletes earning postseason recognition by the conference, it marks the largest class of UVC All-Conference honorees in program history.
Nelson, in his first season playing as a libero at MIT, guided the Engineers defense all season long as he led the conference and ranked eighth in the country in digs per set at 3.21 over 73 sets played. His 234 digs were an improvement by over 50 from his freshman campaign and ranked third overall in the UVC. The 3.21 digs per set will also place him third in the MIT record books. Additionally, Nelson's outstanding defense held opponents to a .164 hitting percentage (876-493-2337), which ranked only behind Vassar in the conference and 32nd in Division III. Back on March 3 in a five-set thriller against No. 14 Eastern Mennonite, Nelson posted 28 digs which was the second-highest total in a five-set match and third-highest overall from anyone in a single match in the country this year. In that match, he came up just two digs shy of breaking the program record which has been around since 1999.
Smith, now a two-time UVC All-Conference Honorable Mention award winner, totaled a team-high 308 kills, which ranked second in the conference this season, as well as a hitting percentage of .294 (308-94-729). His average of 3.54 kills per set led the team and was fifth best in the UVC. Over his four seasons with the Engineers, he averaged 2.80 kills per set which will place him tenth all-time in the MIT record books. The senior also added career-highs this season to his stat line with ten assists, 22 service aces and 92 digs. Defensively, Smith posted 20 total blocks (1 solo, 19 assists) and his 92 digs ranked fourth on the team.
Dong, the 2016 UVC Rookie of the Year and 2017 UVC All-Conference Second Team honoree, earned his first career nod to the Honorable Mention All-Conference team. The junior setter registered 641 assists and averaged 9.03 assists per set this season, which ranked eighth and sixth, respectively in the conference this season. Dong dished out at least 20 assists in all but one match he played in this year and totaled a season-high 49 assists in a five-set win over No. 14 Eastern Mennonite back in March. Dong also posted 33 kills and a hitting percentage of .381 (33-9-63), had 11 service aces, tallied 133 digs for a career-high 1.87 digs per set and registered 30 total blocks (two solo and 28 assists).
Kaufman, now a two-time UVC All-Conference Honorable Mention award winner, wrapped up his junior season with the third best single season hitting percentage in program history at .413. Kaufman holds the record of .417, which he set last season and now holds three of the top four places in the MIT record book. The junior posted 220 kills on 448 attempts in 87 sets played this season. His .413 hitting percentage ranked fifth in the conference and 12th in the nation, while his 220 kills ranked sixth in the UVC and his 35 errors were third-fewest in the conference. Kaufman also added 21 service aces, 40 digs and 81 total blocks (23 solo, which was a new career-high and 58 assists) to his stat line this season. Additionally, his 2.53 kills per set marked a new career-high for the junior.
MIT wrapped up its 2018 season with an overall record of 16-9 and a mark of 4-5 in UVC play. With 16 wins this year, the Engineers registered their 14th straight season with at least 15 victories. Additionally, MIT tallied four wins over nationally-ranked opponents including No. 7 NYU, No. 13 Wentworth, No.14 Eastern Mennonite and No. 15 Elmira under first-year head coach Todd Elwell.