Heading into second semester with an unblemished record, the Harvard men's volleyball team (2-1) faced its first tough challenge of the season on Monday night against the Springfield College Pride (4-2). With a few crucial momentum swings in the Pride's favor, the Crimson fell 3-1 despite putting forth a solid effort.
Harvard began the match with its sharpest play of the season. Behind the leadership of sophomore middle hitter Justin Denham and senior outside hitter Joe Herger, the Crimson quickly claimed an early lead and held on for a 15-7 victory.
"Herger played some exceptional volleyball [Monday night]," said co-captain Ed Pankau. "He showed why he is the best passer on the team, and his big ups on the outside gave way to some thunderous kills."
Herger compiled five kills with a 0.444 hitting percentage in the first game, while Denham maximized three kills on three attempts.
"Justin Denham was on fire the first game," Pankau said. "He simply couldn't be stopped, at times hitting over the Springfield block."
With the onset of the second game, however, Springfield recovered its fire, and the game became one of momentum shifts. After a huge solo block by junior co-captain Justin Micomonaco, Harvard seemed to have shifted the pendulum in its direction.
However, with the score tied 14-14, the Pride fueled two consecutive points to claim the game 16-14.
Leading the second game for the Crimson were Herger and Pankau, with seven and six kills respectively. Freshman setter Mike Bookman tacked on an impressive 17 assists.
Capitalizing on its momentum, Springfield jumped to an early 10-2 lead in the second game.
But Harvard was not giving up. The Crimson rallied to close the margin to 13-8, but two quick points produced on kills by Springfield junior middle blocker James Klimkoski sealed the game for the Pride, 15-8.
Propelled by the late comeback in game three, Harvard fought valiantly in the fourth game, claiming a 12-10 lead. Several quick points later, the game was tied at 12.
But, after a timeout, Springfield rattled off three points to solidify the game, 15-12, and the match, 3-1.
For the Crimson, Herger led the way, firing 20 kills and scrambling for 11 digs. Denham tacked on 12 kills, with a 0.588 hitting percentage, and three aces. Pankau added 14 kills, with a 0.313 hitting percentage, and five blocks.
Harvard's freshmen looked strong, with Bookman contributing an impressive 55 assists and 12 digs.
The Crimson now looks forward to its next two home matches, battling Roger Williams tonight and Eastern Mennonite on Friday.