Photo by Charlie Quigg '09
Sara Heller notched 47 assists and
14 digs Friday night.

Volleyball Falls to M.I.T. in Four

November 10, 2006

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) hosted and ended the Amherst College volleyball team’s postseason run in the second round of the NCAA Championship Tournament Friday night. Amherst lost in four games, 27-30, 22-30, 30-25, 27-30. With the loss, the Jeffs close out their 2006 campaign at 28-5.

Third seed Amherst took control early in the first game. The Jeffs quickly built up a 10-6 lead, but second seed M.I.T. hung in the fight. The Engineers crept to within one, and then took a 15-16 lead. The game tied up at 16, and again at 17, before Amherst junior hitter Jaclyn DeMais (Hillsdale, NJ) put Amherst ahead with a monstrous kill. M.I.T. rallied, though, and went on two four-point runs to lead 20-25. The Jeffs came up with a rally of their own, though: junior hitter Whitney Kouvaris (Jacksonville, FL) started the movement with a kill, and first-year defensive specialist Bethany Belisle (Austin, TX) saved a long rally with a desperate dig from the back row. Sophomore hitter Claire Holton-Basaldua (San Rafael, CA) added another kill, and senior co-captain hitter Kristin Quinn (Pacific Palisades, CA) capped the stretch off with a tricky tip over the net. The Engineers found another point, before Kouvaris fired back with a kill, and Holton-Basaldua and Quinn teamed up for a block to knot the score again at 26. M.I.T. pieced together another four points, though, on the strength of Engineer Frances Rogoz’s offense.

M.I.T. had Amherst’s number the second game. The Jeffs staked the Engineers to an early lead; although they managed to get within one point of M.I.T midway through the frame, they couldn’t break the ice late in the game. Amherst took the benefit of three consecutive Engineer errors to take an 8-6 advantage, but that was the last lead it would see. M.I.T. powered back with a Rogoz kill and a Katie Rowe liner to set the tone, and a late surge put the Engineers up for good.

Amherst and M.I.T. jostled for the lead in the third game. Holton-Basaldua started the game with a block, and DeMais crushed the ball into the Engineer floor to tie the score at 3-3. The Jeffs took advantage of their front row – they turned in three blocks and a kill to eke out an 8-6 lead. The Engineers came back, though, and the score tied ten times before Amherst finally pulled away at 25-22 on a DeMais kill. DeMais turned in two more kills, and Quinn and sophomore hitter Hannah Wirth (Pacific Palisades, CA) denied an Engineer attack, to take the game for Amherst.

M.I.T.’s Rowe had her say to start the fourth game in the form of two laser-like kills. She followed up with a service ace to give the Engineers a three-point lead, before Amherst went on a four-point crusade of its own. The Jeffs looked as if they’d be able to distance themselves – they had a six-point lead midway through the game – but the Engineers stormed back. Amanda Morris and Briana Stephenson teamed up to snag six consecutive M.I.T. points, and Amherst couldn’t hold off the offensive rampage. The score tied at 23, and Amherst never saw the lead again. DeMais turned in a valiant last-ditch effort, putting down Amherst’s last three points, but Stephenson matched her for the win.

DeMais posted 26 kills, 21 digs, and two solo blocks on the night. Quinn swung for 13 kills and two digs. Kouvaris tallied 15 kills and 25 digs of her own, and Belisle kept the defense going with 15 digs. Quinn, Wirth and Kouvaris each added five kills to the box score, and sophomore setter Sara Heller (La Canada, CA) put up 47 assists and 14 digs.

In other regional action, top-seed the United States Coast Guard Academy beat fifth-ranked Endicott College. M.I.T. will face Coast Guard in the regional final Saturday night.