Rutgers Tops Spikers Twice In ECVL Open Tournament
The Harvard men's volleyball team established itself as the New England division favorite by downing defending-champion Springfield in two straight games in the Eastern College Volleyball League (ECVL) Open at West Point Saturday.
The Crimson had matched up with Springfield in the tournament's first game and quickly dumped its division rival, 15-6. The 15-13 Harvard win in the second game of the match doesn't tell the whole story, as Harvard Coach Mike Palm substituted freely.
Only eventual-champion Rutgers could stop the Crimson spikers, and even the Scarlet Knights had trouble fighting off Harvard's upstart crew. Harvard fell to the Knights, 15-13, 15-9, in pool play, then lost in the semi-finals, 15-6, 15-8.
Perennially in the ECVL's top three, the Knights held experience, height and weight advantages over the Crimson, advantages Palm attributes to Rutgers' recruiting. "They do a lot of recruiting, particularly in the Caribbean." Palm said, adding that as a result the Knights' "team age tends to be 20 to 26;"
Rutgers' height and jumping ability precluded Crimson attempts to attack double blocks and forced Harvard to alter its game plan. The Crimson concentrated on fakes rather than brute force in an effort to isolate blockers. Because Harvard faced spikers who could hit over blocks, the spikers had to rely more than usual on back-court defense.
Sophomore Jon Tanaka led Harvard's back-row play throughout the day, but it was his performance as middle hitter that proved he has fully recovered from an ankle sprain he suffered last month.
Harvard faced two Army teams Saturday and beat both of them handily. In pool play the Crimson demolished Army "B," 15-1, 15-2. The Army "A" side proved tougher, but Harvard won the quarter-final contest, 15-6, 15-13.
Freshman Jon Ross neutralized Army "A"'a chief weapon, a 6 ft. 8 in, middle blocker. At Palm's request, Ross worried lessout power and concentrated on placement and arm-swing speed. As a result, Ross controlled the net and sent spikes to the court in front of diving Cadets.
Harvard success at the EVCL Open should help the Crimson's seeding in the EVCL's post-season tournament. Palm thinks Harvard may be seeded as high as forth or fifth.