Volleyball Succumbs to City Foe Clark in Five-Set Nailbiter

Casey Hunt

WORCESTER -- In a match that definitely had a playoff feel, Clark rallied for a thrilling 3-2 win over crosstown rival WPI in NEWMAC volleyball action on Tuesday evening at the Kneller Athletic Center. Game scores were 22-25, 27-25, 23-25, 25-16, 15-11. 

With the win, the Scarlet and White improves to 19-7 overall but more importantly moves to 7-2 in conference contests, and have secured the No. 3 seed in next week's conference tournament. 

For the Engineers, meanwhile, their record also stands at 19-7 and despite the loss, they have clinched the program's first playoff berth since 2012. 

WPI took over the first set with it tied at 13-13 when they ran off five straight points to go ahead 18-13 behind kills from Casey Hunt (Granby, CT) and Melissa Daigle (Norfolk, MA). 

Clark closed the gap to 23-22 but another kill from Hunt and a block by Sam Bircsak (Acton, MA) and Kat Hurlock (Burlington, CT) sealed the set at 25-22. 

WPI looked as if they would collect the second set as well when they went ahead 16-12 on an Anna Kaczowka (Seekonk, MA) service ace. 

Back-to-back kills by Marina Ramos (Guaynabo, PR) got the Cougars closer but once again Hunt gave the Engineers some breathing room with a kill to make the score 22-19. Clark then ran off four straight points to even the score capped by a thunderous kills from Ana Mercado (Guaynabo, PR). 

Points went back-and-forth and with the score knotted at 25-25, the Scarlet and White took advantage of a WPI hitting error and then got the set-sealing point on a block from Courtney Pharr (Seattle, WA) and Tori Whitney (Sunderland, MA). 

Clark raced ahead in the third set, leading 9-4 after a Mercado kill, but the Crimson and Gray recorded seven of the next eight points to take an 11-10 lead. That lead ballooned to 16-13 after consecutive Daigle kills and was 20-15 after a ball handling error from the Cougars' Whitney. 

The Scarlet and White made a run of their own in the set and tied the score at 23-23 as Pharr got the momentum going with two kills in a row and then later, a Shannon Glass-Smythe (Albuquerque, NM) service and a WPI miscue had the score all square. Kills from Bircsak and Hunt, however, gave the Engineers the set at 25-23 and the 2-1 lead in the match. 

Clark jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fourth set and never trailed as they led by as many as nine points on a couple of occasions and eventually took the 25-16 win to force the fifth and deciding set. 

The final set was similar to the others in that it was a back and forth affair that saw seven ties – the last one coming at 10-10. Ramos put the Scarlet and White ahead 12-10 with back-to-back kills but Hunt kept the Engineers in striking distance with one of her own. That would be WPI's final point, though as two kills from Mercado were sandwiched around a Ramos service ace as the Cougars picked up the 15-11 win. 

For WPI, Hunt finished with a career-high 19 kills to go along with 17 digs, while Cassandra Tomerlin (La Quinta, CA) posted a season-high 29 digs of her own. 

The two headed setting tandem of Shay Feeley (Franklin, MA) and Azita Bakhtyari (Andover, MA) combined for 46 assists – with a season-best 26 coming from Feeley. Daigle, meanwhile, totaled 17 kills and seven digs. 

For the Cougars, Ramos racked up 19 kills and 26 digs – her 16th double-double this season. In addition to Ramos' big night, Mercado contributed 13 kills and Glass-Smythe - the Cougars' lone senior – ended with a double-double of her own – 11 kills and 14 digs. 

Whitney, meanwhile, handed out a career-best 53 assists and Mia Cattaneo (Santa Barbara, CA) anchored an excellent back row, totaling 29 digs – her seventh match this season of 20 or more. 

Both teams wrap up the regular season with conference contests. WPI plays host to Mount Holyoke at 1:00 p.m. while Clark visits Emerson at 2:30 p.m.

Release Courtesy Clark Sports Information