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Smith College volleyball sweeps Mount Holyoke, qualifies for postseason

COURTESY SMITH COLLEGE
Rosa Drummond, right, of Smith College, spikes the ball against Mount Holyoke defenders Stephany Yang, left, and Kaleen Iwema, Tuesday in Northampton. Smith College won 3-0.

COURTESY SMITH COLLEGE Rosa Drummond, right, of Smith College, spikes the ball against Mount Holyoke defenders Stephany Yang, left, and Kaleen Iwema, Tuesday in Northampton. Smith College won 3-0. Purchase photo reprints »

NORTHAMPTON — It took some time, but after coming together over the past few seasons, the Smith College volleyball team finally clinched a spot in the NEWMAC tournament with a 3-0 victory over Mount Holyoke Tuesday on senior night.

The Pioneers (20-7, 5-4) won 25-9, 25-15, 25-14, and in doing so assured themselves of at least a seventh seed in the upcoming tournament.

“It’s the players,” Smith coach Fran Vandermeer said. “We have five seniors who have worked their hardest. They’ve done work from the time they were sophomores with us and they’ve listened and they’ve processed, and this is the year they put it all together.”

The squad also earned its first 20-win season since 2005, which is more victories than the past three seasons combined.

“We knew during preseason it was going to be a special year because we could hear our seniors teaching the new players how to play defense and they deserve everything that they’ve worked for this year,” Vandermeer said.

Amherst native and Smith outside hitter Sonia Brown had 16 digs in the victory.

“It’s really amazing to come from 3-21 our freshmen year, and now we are 20-7,” the senior said. “I think our seniors have been working really hard because we want this year to be special, and it has really paid off.”

The Pioneers came out and dominated the first set against Mount Holyoke (10-17, 0-9). The two squads battled more competitively in the second set before Smith pulled away late for a 25-15 win. The Pioneers came back strong and closed the game out in the third.

The attack of Smith’s Mei-Li Smith and senior Rosa Drummond turned out to be to much for Mount Holyoke. Smith finished with 10 kills, nine assists and 12 digs, while Drummond had 12 kills and seven digs along with three blocks.

Martina Kneifel performed well for Mount Holyoke, finishing with nine kills and six digs. Kayleen Iwema (three kills, 11 digs) and Hadley’s Athena Donta (16 digs) played well defensively.

“The fact that I could play my starting lineup tonight was a positive for us,” Mount Holyoke coach Sonnie Terrell said. “We’ve been injured the past two weeks, and I was just glad that my senior captain could play tonight. That was good for us.”

Smith may have qualified for the postseason, but Vandermeer isn’t going to take anything for granted.

“We’re still at a point in the season where we’re trying to get better everyday,” Vandermeer said. “Even in this match tonight, what the scoreboard says and what we want to work on tomorrow are two different things. But that’s one of the things that makes this group special. I think three years ago they didn’t understand that part of the process, but as seniors their veteran leadership and their willingness to do the work has really turned the program around. We’re proud of them, and we look forward to whatever this next week holds.”

The Pioneers close the regular season at Wheaton at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Mount Holyoke plays at WPI at 1 on Saturday.

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