CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The MIT women's volleyball team battled Mount Holyoke College for a 25-23, 25-13, 25-22 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) victory on Tuesday night. With the win, the Engineers improved to 10-5 on the year and 2-1 in league play while the Lyons dipped to 8-3 overall and 0-3 in the NEWMAC.
The opening frame was a back-and-forth affair until MIT pulled in front, 22-20, prompting a timeout by Mount Holyoke. Following the break, junior Nicole Gagnier (Atlanta, Ga.) gave the Engineers some breathing room courtesy of an ace; however, the Lyons battled back to even the score at 23. A kill by junior Kaleen Iwema (Wadsworth, Ill.) sparked the late rally that also featured an ace from junior Stephany Yang (Glen Allen, Va.) and an MIT hitting error. The hosts responded with a kill from senior Rachel Hunt (Arlington Heights, Ill.) and clinched the set on a miscue by the Lyons.
The Engineers established a 10-4 lead in the second stanza but after a Mount Holyoke timeout, the visitors narrowed the gap to four (11-7). MIT gradually increased its cushion as strikes by senior Tatiana Berger (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Hunt put it up, 17-9. An exchange of points ensued following the Lyons' final timeout, but they would get no closer as the Engineers recorded a 7-2 run to close out the frame.
MIT jumped out to a 7-1 advantage in the final set and later built a 20-11 lead. Following its final timeout of the match, Mount Holyoke outscored the Engineers, 5-2, by capitalizing on a trio of errors to go along with two aces by freshman Natalie Lyon (Oakton, Va.). The spurt prompted MIT to use a timeout and once play resumed miscues by both sides in addition to a Berger kill gave the Engineers match point at 24-19. Despite the deficit, the Lyons continued to attack as two errors and a kill from Iwema kept them alive. However, a strike by freshman Lara Markey (San Diego, Calif.) thwarted the late rally attempt and secured the win.
Berger finished with a match-high 11 kills to go along with 10 digs and three aces while junior Jenny Astrachan (Austin, Texas) posted 10 kills. Hunt bolstered the front row with six kills as Gagnier tallied 25 assists, 11 digs, and three aces. Freshman Tori Wuthrich (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.) collected 13 digs as senior Jess Fessler (Shortsville, N.Y.) picked up six digs and three aces. Seniors Sharon Hao (San Jose, Calif.) and Emma Gargus (Columbus, Ohio) both earned two aces while Hao tacked on five digs.
Senior Martina Kneifel (Oro Valley, Ariz.) paced Mount Holyoke with eight kills and amassed 21 digs. Iwema finished with five kills and 21 digs as junior Rebecca Bland (Durham, N.C.) contributed five kills. Sophomore Emma Sweeting (Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.) connected on four of her seven hitting attempts and tacked on two blocks while freshman Athena Donta (Hadley, Mass.) recorded 13 digs and two aces. Lyon produced seven digs, six assists, and two aces as Yang dished out seven assists.
Next up for MIT will be a home tri-match on Saturday, Sept. 28 featuring NEWMAC foe Smith College and local rival Framingham State University. Mount Holyoke continues conference play on Thursday, Sept. 26 when it hosts Clark University.