Volleyball Hangs Tough With Second-Place Springfield in Entertaining NEWMAC Clash

Kelly Rathje

WORCESTER – Reigning NEWMAC Defensive Player of the Week senior Lauren Holt (Granby, CT) led the all student-athletes with a .346 hitting percentage and 13 kills as Springfield defeated host WPI, 3-0 (28-26, 25-14, 25-23), Tuesday night in Harrington Auditorium.

The Pride, who are receiving votes in the AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25, are ranked fifth in the New England Women's Volleyball Association Division III coaches poll and are in the midst of a 15-match winning-streak, improve to 22-3 overall and 8-1 in the NEWMAC while the Engineers dip to 17-7 and 4-4.

Junior Kayleigh Helgesen (Oceanside, CA) added 10 kills followed by sophomore Jennifer Donnelly (Exeter, RI) and sophomore Hayley Kmetz (Ardsley, NY) with nine each. Senior Marnae Mawdsley (Bolton, CT) handed out all but four of the visitors' 46 assists. Freshman Anagabrielle Sanchez (Caguas, Puerto Rico) tallied a match-best 25 digs to go with 14 each by Donnelly and senior Jennifer Hurwitz (Longmeadow, MA).

Sophomore Casey Hunt (Granby, CT) had a double-double with 15 digs and 11 kills as senior Maddy Werth (Bedford, MA) shared match-high honors with 13 swipes. The setting duo of sophomore Azita Bakhtyari (Andover, MA) and senior Shay Feeley (Franklin, MA) combined for 31 helpers. Sophomore Victoria Nassar (Salem, NH) served as the Engineers libero for the evening and racked up 21 digs while junior Kelly Rathje (Scituate, MA) turned in 14 of her own.

The first set was extremely entertaining and featured 16 ties. After a kill by Donnelly made it 10-10, Werth delivered four kills to key a five-point spurt and force the Pride to call their second timeout. Holt responded with three kills to help knot the frame at 15-15 and 16-16. Back-to-back swipes by junior Kat Hurlock (Burlington, CT) and Hunt gave the hosts a two-point cushion. From there it was point-for-point until Helgesen ended the stanza with a pair of kills.

Springfield claimed the middle set on only 10 kills and a trio of aces.

The Pride staked an early 6-1 advantage and appeared to continue their momentum from the earlier set. WPI, however, went on a 6-1 rally of its own to forge an 8-7 lead. It remained close until Springfield secured the 20-15 margin thanks to swipes by Helgesen and Donnelly to go with a pair of host miscues. A kill and two aces by Feeley cut the deficit to a pair at 20-18. Two Pride miscues extended the match before Holt finished the match off with a kill.

The Engineers entertain Brandeis Thursday at 7pm while the Pride open New England Challenge action at Tufts Friday evening.