Women's Volleyball Suffers First Loss of Season to Wellesley

Senior Kelly Schulte and sophomore Kristine Bunker
Senior Kelly Schulte and sophomore Kristine Bunker

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Wellesley College ended MIT's undefeated season with a 27-25, 18-25, 25-15, 25-20 decision in a NEWMAC women's volleyball match on Tuesday night. The Engineers saw their ledger move to 11-1 on the year and 2-1 in conference action while the Blue improved to 6-3 overall and 2-1 in the NEWMAC.

Wellesley quickly established a 7-3 lead that eventually grew to 16-11 on an MIT service error. The Engineers responded with a 10-3 run capped by a block from sophomore Kristine Bunker (Falmouth, Mass.). After trading points, a pair of miscues put the Cardinal and Gray ahead, 24-21. Kills from Caitlin Laughlin and Kellyn O'Brady in addition to an MIT error extended the frame for the Blue. Junior Trinity Leonard (Mill Valley, Calif.) put the hosts in front on a hit that caromed off the Wellesley block out of bounds, but the Blue capitalized on two errors and a strike from O'Brady to take the opening set.

The early stages of the second stanza were a back-and-forth affair as it featured eight ties and three lead changes, the last on a kill by Amanda Duritsch that gave Wellesley a 12-11 edge. A block by Leonard sparked a string of seven unanswered points which put the Engineers ahead for good. The Blue narrowed its deficit to four on two occasions, the final time at 21-17, but MIT registered four of the next five points to win the set.

With the score tied at six, Wellesley mounted a 12-4 run that helped propel it to the third set victory. The Engineers picked up three of the next five points, however it would not be enough to overcome the deficit as the Blue closed the game with 5-2 spurt.

In the final frame, MIT had a 5-3 edge before Wellesley scored five consecutive points and later claimed a 15-10 advantage. The Engineers then replied with five unanswered points to knot the set. After trading serves, a kill by Duritsch and an ace from Kaitlin Bradshaw gave the visitors some breathing room. MIT continued to attack and came within one on two occasions, the last at 21-20 courtesy of a hitting error. However, the Blue responded with four straight points to clinch the match.

Seniors Kelly Schulte (Riverside, Calif.) and Cecily Joujon-Roche (Laguna Hills, Calif.) paced the Engineers with nine kills, followed by eight from Leonard. Bunker and Schulte both registered six blocks while junior Katie Spielbauer (Lakeview, Mich.) led the way with 16 kills and an ace. Freshman Nicole Gagnier (Atlanta, Ga.) totaled 30 assists and 12 digs while senior Natasha Jensen (Columbia, Md.) posted 10 digs and an ace.

Laughlin led the way with 14 kills as O'Brady and Duritsch added nine and seven respectively. Duritsch chipped in three blocks while Megan Mills added two of her own. Traci Hamanaka anchored the back row with 14 digs as Vivian Hu bolstered the squad with 11 digs. Isabel Custodio dished out 40 assists in the win.

Both squads will return to action on Friday, Sept. 23 in the first day of the two-day MIT Invitational.