NEW LONDON, Conn. – Making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in five years, the MIT women's volleyball team fell to UMass Boston, 22-25, 25-20, 25-13, 25-22, in the opening round on Friday night. The Engineers' closed their season with a ledger of 30-6, resulting in their best overall record since 2007.
The Beacons opened the match with a 4-1 lead, but MIT responded with an 8-3 run that featured a by a block from junior Kristine Bunker (Falmouth, Mass.) and senior Alyssa Rothman (Plainview, N.Y.) and a kill by Bunker. After a timeout by UMass Boston, it chipped away at the deficit and eventually reclaimed the lead at 12-11. Six ties and five lead changes ensued before the Beacons increased their margin to 19-16. The Engineers produced four unanswered points, including kills from freshman Ada Taylor (Durham, N.C.) and senior Trinity Leonard (Mill Valley, Calif.) to go along with an ace by senior Katie Spielbauer (Lakeview, Mich.). UMass Boston used its final timeout of the frame, but MIT maintained its small cushion as a Bunker kill resulted in set point which was followed by a block from Taylor and junior Rachel Hunt (Arlington Heights, Ill.).
The Engineers slowly established an 11-7 advantage in the second set; however, the Beacons generated a 6-1 run to force an MIT timeout. Several miscues along with an ace from junior Sharon Hao (San Jose, Calif.) put the Cardinal and Gray in front at 17-14. UMass Boston continued to attack, knotting the score at 20 before rattling off five straight points for the win.
The Beacons jumped out to a 12-5 lead in the third set, but the Engineers scored five points in a row to prompt a UMass Boston timeout. Kills by Rothman, sophomore Morgan Stewart (Powell, Ohio), and Bunker helped fuel the spurt for MIT. The Beacons picked up the next point following the break and after an exchange of sideouts they extended their margin to 19-12 causing MIT to call a timeout. The Engineers couldn't thwart the rally as UMass Boston registered six of the final seven points to capture the set.
In the final frame, MIT built a 4-1 lead which was erased by an 11-4 Beacons' run. The Engineers slowly chipped away at the deficit, narrowing the gap to one (17-16). Back-to-back kills gave UMass Boston some breathing room, but MIT stayed within striking distance, coming within two on two occasions, the second time at 22-20. After a timeout by the Beacons, a kill and hitting error brought them to match point. The Engineers responded with kills from Taylor and Leonard to extend the match, but UMass Boston converted on its next attempt.
Taylor led the way with 13 kills and a .357 hitting percentage while Bunker totaled nine kills and three blocks. Junior Tatiana Berger (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) posted eight kills as Spielbauer collected 18 digs. Rothman tallied 32 assists, 10 digs, and three blocks while freshman Lindsey Wang (Cupertino, Calif.) registered 10 digs, and two aces. Leonard rounded out the squad with 10 digs.