They say competition builds character. The Harvard women's volleyball team faced Boston College, Holy Cross and Hofstra, teams with a combined record of 40-9.
Character is starting to ooze out of Harvard's skin.
"Overall, despite our two losses, I would still call it a successful weekend," said spiker Carolyn Burger, whose team beat Holy Cross but fell to B.C. and Hofstra. "We played really well against Holy Cross. We had good passing, sets and defense. We were able to run some plays."
Harvard (3-6) faced Boston College (3-5) and Holy Cross (16-3) Saturday, dropping a 11-15, 15-6, 15-11, 15-11 decision to the Eagles, but rallying to dispose of the Crusaders, 14-16, 15-9, 15-11, 15-11.
On September 24, Holy Cross crushed the spikers in four sets.
Harvard returned to the Malkin Athletic Center Sunday to host Hofstra (21-1). The Crimson dropped a 15-5, 15-13, 15-7 decision to the Flying Dutchwomen in front of 30 spectators.
"I think we were satisfied with our performance," Co-Captain Manda Schossberger said. "We lost a tough match to B.C., but we showed a lot of character by coming back to beat Holy Cross."
After capturing the first set, B.C. rallied to win the next three sets.
Against Holy Cross, Harvard jumped out to a 6-1 lead on kills by Nicole Anderson, Burger and Schossberger in the first set.
But Harvard could not hold on, as the Crusaders sailed past the spikers.
In the second set, the Crusaders' momentum carried over to the second set as they jumped out to an 8-5 lead. But Harvard took over the match at that point, scoring nine out of the next 10 points to win the set.
Leading the way for the Crimson were Peri Wallace, Danni Cunningham, Anderson and Schossberger. Anderson and Wallace, who finished with seven kills and 11 blocks, scored several points for the Crimson at the net. Cunningham and Schossberger burned the Crusaders with kills.
After winning the second set, Harvard had a look of confidence on its face and it showed in its play. The spikers dominated the match with excellent digs, excellent defense and a high powered offense. The only way Harvard could lose was if the lights were turned off.
The lights stayed on and Holy Cross could not find the switch, and the Crimson jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the third set. Harvard held off a Crusader charge to win the set.
Holy Cross started off fast in the fourth set, looking to make a comeback and tie the match at two sets apiece. The teams traded points before Holy Cross held on to a 10-9 lead.
But Harvard responded with six straight points to win the match and set. End of comeback.
On Saturday, Schossberger finished with 35 kills, while adding 23 blocks and nine digs. Burger added 28 assists, 11 kills and 13 digs. Anderson led the way at the net with 15 blocks, while Cunningham added 17 kills and 24 assists.
Huge is Back
On Sunday, the Crimson faced Hofstra, one of the top teams in the East. The Flying Dutchwomen held the spikers to only five points in the first set.
But Crimson Captain Maia Forman, who missed the B.C. and Holy Cross games, and Schossberger turned things around for the Crimson in the second set. Forman scored several kills and provided the Crimson hitters with perfectly placed sets.
The Crimson dominated the second set, taking a 9-5 lead. Hofstra Coach Fran Kalafer called a timeout. The Flying Dutchmen responded after the timeout by capturing six straight points. Harvard closed the defecit to one, 14-13, but Hofstra was able to tally the final point for the match.
The Crimson held its own in the third set, battling to a 7-7 tie, but the Flying Dutchmen were too strong. The taller Hofstra squad won the next eight points to win the set and match.
"I was definitely happy with the way we played against Hofstra," Schossberger said. "But there were points where we could have played better."
"Despite our 3-0 loss, we weren't blown out," Burger said.
Don't Worry Be Happy
"We're starting to put things together," Harvard Coach Wayne Lem said. "We don't have any excuses. This is a rebuilding year for us. As long as we're making progress, I'm happy."
"I thought they had a lot of spunk," Kalafer said. "I think with a little more experience, they should be able to challenge anyone in the Ivies."
"We needed a match like this," Lem said. "Our transition was slow. Hofstra is a hard serving team. We weren't able to adjust to their serves quickly enough."
Harvard will open its Ivy season Friday against Cornell at the MAC.