MIT Rallies to Defeat Babson, 3-1, in NEWMAC Quarterfinal

Juniors Kristine Bunker and Tatiana Berger
Juniors Kristine Bunker and Tatiana Berger

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Trailing late in the fourth set, the MIT women's volleyball generated a 9-3 run to defeat Babson College, 25-15, 25-16, 23-25, 26-24, in the quarterfinal round of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championship Tournament on Wednesday night. The No. 3-seeded Engineers improved their ledger to 28-5 on the year and will face No. 2 Springfield College in a semifinal match at Wellesley College on Saturday, Nov. 3. The No. 6 Beavers, meanwhile, saw their season conclude with a record of 22-8.

The early stages of the opening set were closely played as it featured seven ties and three lead changes until Babson used a 3-1 spurt to put it in front, 13-12. A kill by freshman Meryl Gibbs (Bellaire, Texas) sparked a 12-2 run which featured back-to-back aces from senior Trinity Leonard (Mill Valley, Calif.) that resulted in set point. A strike from freshman Alicia Wilde (Franklin, Mass.) extended the frame, but a serving error gave the hosts the win.

In the second stanza, the Beavers inched out to a 6-4 edge which was erased by an 11-2 run by the Engineers. Babson narrowed the gap to five on two occasions, the last at 18-13 courtesy of an ace from freshman Elizabeth Sullivan (Quincy, Mass.). This was as close as it would get as MIT registered seven of the last 10 points to secure the victory.

The visitors jumped out to a 5-2 advantage which grew to 12-8 in the third set. The Engineers slowly chipped away at the deficit as a block by freshman Ada Taylor (Durham, N.C.) and Gibbs in addition to a pair of kills from Leonard put them ahead, 16-15. Babson responded with six straight points, including a trio of aces from freshman Brianna San Diego (Daly City, Calif.), to reclaim the lead. MIT continued to attack, cutting its deficit to two at 21-19 and 23-21, but a kill by Wilde gave the Beavers set point. A hitting error and an ace from junior Emma Gargus (Columbus, Ohio) kept the Engineers alive and prompted Babson to call a timeout. Freshman Krissy Robertson (Dedham, Mass.) replied with a strike after the break to extend the match.

The Beavers carried the momentum into the fourth set as they quickly established an 8-4 lead. Following an MIT timeout, the hosts generated a 6-1 spurt that featured three kills from Leonard. Babson countered with a 10-3 run which resulted in a 19-13 advantage. The Engineers cut their deficit in half courtesy of a serving error and two aces from senior Katie Spielbauer (Lakeview, Mich.); however, a pair of miscues gave the Beavers some breathing room and resulted in MIT's final timeout of the set.

After exchanging side-outs, a block by junior Kristine Bunker (Falmouth, Mass.) and senior Alyssa Rothman (Plainview, N.Y.) in addition to a Bunker kill and a Babson hitting error trimmed the deficit to 22-20. The Beavers used their final timeout of the night, but it could not stop the rally as the Engineers capitalized on a strike by junior Tatiana Berger (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), another Bunker-Rothman block, a roll shot from Leonard, and a hitting miscue to reach match point. Kills by Wilde and Robertson evened the score at 24 but Babson could not sustain the late rally as a Bunker blast and a solo block from Berger clinched the victory.

Leonard led the way with 15 kills and four aces while Berger totaled nine kills and four blocks. Bunker registered nine blocks and five kills as Gibbs rounded out the front row with six kills and two blocks. Spielbauer posted 22 digs and three aces as freshman Lindsey Wang (Cupertino, Calif.) notched 10 digs and three aces. Taylor contributed three blocks while junior Sharon Hao (San Jose, Calif.) finished with 10 digs. Rothman racked up 36 assists, five blocks, and two aces for MIT.

Freshman Mary Donahue (Braintree, Mass.) paced the Beavers with 14 kills to go along with three blocks as Wilde totaled nine kills. Robertson chipped in six kills and four blocks while San Diego earned three aces. Senior Kathleen Lynch (Quincy, Mass.) compiled 34 assists and two blocks in the loss.