For most Harvard sports, the Ivy League is it. The Ivy League championship is the goal of every team. Ivy games are the only games that matter.
But men's volleyball is a different story. Because some Ivy schools do not field varsity volleyball teams, there is no Ivy League. Instead, there is the "New England Conference," comprised of all the New England schools that have varsity programs. Ivy League play, then, becomes moot.
But today, and only today, all this changes.
Today at the MAC, Harvard plays host to the seven other members of the fabled Ancient Eight for the Ivy League Volleyball championships.
Even though there is no league, there is still the pride thing. Harvard enjoys beating the men from New Haven or the boys from Princeton whether they are club or varsity.
Today is about Princeton grad Neil Rudenstine and Princeton President Harold Shapiro (not entirely affectionately known at Old Nassau as "Hal" for certain personality characteristics he shares with the computer from 2001) going nose to nose over a cup of tea about whose volleyball team is better.
So mirror, mirror on the MAC wall, who will be the most proud of them all? Well, it looks like a Crimson-Tiger showdown.
Harvard comes into the tournament as the number two seed. Princeton, the defending NEC champions, is the number one seed.
But a Harvard-Princeton clash is more than a one-seed versus a two-seed. The revenge factor could rear its head.
"We beat Princeton earlier in the year," Harvard junior Mike Meyer said. "But it was kind of a surprise. They will be more ready for us this time around."
Harvard may have angered the defending champions. It may have awoken a sleeping giant. But then again, it was the first Crimson victory in eight years against the Tigers. That win may serve as a launching pad for a Harvard victory.
The players themselves seem confident. They've seen Princeton. They know Princeton, and they know they can beat Princeton.
"We have a very good chance at beating Princeton," junior Carlos Gonzalez said. "We just have to concentrate on our game."
And what exactly is Harvard's game?
"We play a disciplined, defensive game," Gonzalez said. "This week in practice we've been working on our blocks and developing them into a solid transition offense. We have to do this well this weekend."