Worcester, MA --- In the final home match of their collegiate careers, WPI volleyball's senior class gave its fans a night to remember in a stunning 3-0 win over visiting Springfield on Tuesday night at the Harrington Auditorium, their first win ever over the Pride. Set scores were 25-22, 25-23, 25-14 in favor of the Engineers.
WPI is now 18-8 with a 4-4 mark in the NEWMAC standings and, with the victory, secured a spot in next week's NEWMAC Tournament. Springfield, ranked fourth in the most recent NCAA New England poll, falls to 25-6 and 6-2 against conference opponents. The Pride enters the final weekend of the season in a three-way tie with MIT and Coast Guard for second place, two game behind Wellesley.
The victory was the first for WPI in 16 tries against Springfield. In the previous 15 matches, the Engineers had only claimed a single set win over the Pride back in set two of the team's inaugural match-up back in September of 1998.
Senior outside hitter Bailey Sarber (Westerly, RI) had one of her best performances of the season with 14 kills and two service aces. Senior outside hitter Belinda Nwagbara (Santa Rosa, CA) finished with 11 kills with a .308 kill-percentage and five digs. Senior right-side Elyssa Dorenfeld (Reading, MA) filled the stat line with nine kills, 16 digs, six assists and a match-high .320 kill-percentage. Senior setter Alyssa Fidanza (Ellington, CT) tallied 31 assists and 12 digs. WPI scored the first seven points of the third and final set off of Fidanza's serve. Senior libero Lauren D'Angelo (Wallingford, CT) sparked the defense with a team-high 20 digs.
Junior outside hitter and defending NEWMAC player of the week Tessa Smolinski (Hebron, CT) led Springfield with seven kills and 14 digs. Freshman Daniella Crismani (San Francisco, CA) chipped in with seven kills and 10 digs while Molly Giannattasio (East Lyme, CT) handed out 15 assists. Amy Entel led the defensive charge for the Pride with a match-best 21 kills while Mary Consol (Long Valley, NH) contributed four blocks to go along with six kills.
After a first set that saw seven lead changes before WPI pulled it out, the second was another see-saw battle. After Springfield pulled ahead 12-8, Sarber got the ball back for WPI with a timely kill, then led the Engineers to three straight points off her serve. The final stretch of the set was a sprint with neither team leading by more than two when Nwagbara finally pushed WPI over the top with a kill to cap off the 25-23 win.
Off Fidanza's serve, the Crimson and Gray exploded to a 7-0 lead in the third set. Springfield attempted to rally, pulling to within five at 15-10. But WPI would prove too determined this night, as Sarber, Nwagbara and Dorenfeld each had kills to close out the match.
Prior to the match, the eight seniors including Kerrin Beovich (Seaford, NY), Alex Rangel (Weston, FL), Jocelyn Close (Ellington, CT), Fidanza, Sarber, Dorenfeld, D'Angelo and Nwagbara were honored as part of their final home contest. The group has amassed 81 wins to date, most by a WPI class in over a quarter century.
Both teams close out the NEWMAC regular season with 1pm matches on Saturday. WPI ventures to Norton to take on Wheaton while Springfield entertains Coast Guard.