Volleyball Falls to MIT in Second Round of NCAA Tournament
Issue   |   Wed, 11/18/2015 - 01:49

Amherst women’s volleyball ended their season this week with a strong showing in their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2010. The Firedogs travelled to Boston to play Johnson & Wales University on Friday night and with that win advanced to face host MIT on Saturday evening.

The purple and white opened up their NCAA appearance with a massive sweep of Johnson & Wales on Friday night in Boston. The Firedogs made short work of a 23-8 wildcat squad led by Lizzie Ahern ’16 and Nicole Gould ’17, who led the team with 11 kills each, followed by Marialexa Natsis’ ’18 seven kills, with Samantha Newby ’16 adding five as the purple and white hit .288 as a team for the match.

Amherst only trailed Johnson & Wales once in the match after allowing the Wildcats to grab a 2-1 lead in the first set. The Firedogs went on a seven-point unanswered run in the first set, grabbing the momentum and never looking back.

The first set ended 25-13 in a quick sub-20 minutes, highlighted by two service aces apiece from Kelci Keeno ’17 and first-year Hayes Honea.

The second set was even easier than the first, with the purple and white again jumping ahead with seven straight points to start off the set.

The Firedogs never allowed Johnson & Wales more than two points in a row, with Gould, Natsis, Newby and Maggie Danner ’17 coming up with big kills and tough blocks at the net.

The third and final set saw an absolutely dominating performance from Ahern, who contributed seven kills and led the team to a 25-12 victory. Keeno came up big once again in the third set, contributing two more service aces to bring her total to a match-high five, while Carter led the set with three.

The Firedogs opened up their third set with an 8-0 run and never looked back, with Ahern sealing the match with back-to-back kills to shut down the wildcats.

“It was great to pick up that momentum and get a tournament win under our belts early,” Asha Walker ’18 said. “We were nervous heading into the tournament so it was nice to calm the butterflies with a big win early. It proved that we were meant to be there on that national stage.”

With a first tournament win under their belts, Amherst put up a hard fight on Saturday night against a tough, 24th-ranked MIT team. Highlights from the match included Danner’s 14 kills, Carter’s 42 assists, and All-NESCAC first-team selection Katie Warshaw ’16’s 27 digs.

After allowing MIT to score the first two points of the match, the Firedogs pulled ahead and held the lead for the rest of the match thanks to four timely kills by Danner and three from Gould. Amherst fell behind early in the second match after allowing MIT a six-point run to make it 8-2.

The purple and white tried to fight their way back but the deficit was too deep and despite a big last-minute kill by Natsis, Amherst fell 25-12 in the second set.

With the match tied at 1-1, MIT pulled ahead to an early 10-4 lead in the third set. Amherst fought back, however, scoring 15 of the next 24 points to tie up the set at 19 thanks to a huge Danner kill.

Carter’s service ace put the Firedogs on top and kills from Danner and Ahern a block by Newby and Ahern, and a final solo block by Newby allowed the purple and white to take the set, putting them up 2-1 on the Engineers.

The fourth set saw MIT pull ahead after taking a slight 16-13 lead, using several Tellez kills to give them a 20-13 cushion. Despite key kills from Gould and Natsis, MIT pulled away with a 25-16 win to force a fifth set.

The fifth set saw MIT take a quick five-point lead and quickly extend that to a 10-3 advantage. Amherst, not ready to give up yet, pulled within four points of the Engineers after a 5-2 run highlighted by back-to-back Danner kills. But the Engineers took the momentum at that point, scoring three of the next four points to take the set and the match and move on in the NCAA tournament.

“We had such a succesful season, so it was of course heartbreaking to fall in such a close game,” Walker said. “It was definitely hard fought, and I truly think we left everything on the court in that last game.”

The Firedogs enjoyed an impressive season, with the senior class concluding their careers with a 78-29 overall record, three straight NESCAC semifinal appearances and capping the experience with a strong NCAA tournament appearance. They will lose four Firedogs to graduation, but will return a core of talent and experience when they compete again next fall.