Denham (22 Kills) Powers M. Volleyball
“I think that the win will help carry our team into preparing for our matches next week,” sophomore outside hitter Russ Mosier said, “We know that our three matches coming up are very important and our team as a whole will have to play very consistently to get the job done.”
The Crimson (4-6, 2-4 EIVA Hay) got the job done early against New Paltz. Freshman Will Reppun, returning from an ankle injury, immediately made his presence known with an on-target pass to co-captain Mike Bookman to start the match. Followed by a block by Bookman and two New Paltz errors, the Crimson pulled out to a quick 4-1 lead. The aggressive serving of co-captain Justin Denham, who tallied three aces in the match, maintained and increased the team’s lead at the finish.
But it was freshman Abe Marouf who closed the game with a kill and a final score of 30-21.
The second game proved to be more challenging for the Crimson. While Harvard never fell behind, the hitting power of New Paltz’s Sean Riley cut the Crimson lead to two and forced Coach Tom Wilson to call a timeout late in the game.
“[New Paltz] fought back in game two, but we stopped their comeback,” Wilson said.
Denham, who led the Crimson attack with 22 kills, took over the game with a quick sideout kill and service ace that dashed New Paltz’s comeback efforts and ended the game at 30-26.
“We never got too crazy over good points, but we never mentally attacked ourselves over bad ones either,” Denham said. “Because of that we were able to play a more level game overall.”
While the calmness and resolve of the second game displayed an improved mental aspect of Harvard’s play, the Crimson fell 30-26 in the third game. New Paltz’s Jason Bateman, who led the team with 10 kills, added fire to SUNY’s attack. Solid New Paltz blocking limited the productivity of Harvard’s attack, which registered eight hitting errors.
Wilson admits that last week’s difficult loss to Sacred Heart, which similarly began with a Harvard 2-0 lead and a third game loss, was in the back of his players minds.
But the Crimson would not repeat last week’s frustrating loss.
“Yeah I was [thinking about Sacred Heart], but this time it didn’t stop us,” Denham said.
Behind the calm and steady leadership of Bookman, who finished the match with 50 assists, eight digs and two aces, the Crimson recovered from a four point deficit early in the fourth game and never gave up the lead.
Freshman Ryland Degnan and Reppun were key to Harvard’s defensive effort, totaling seven and 12 digs, respectively.
Reppun’s contributions were not limited to his physical abilities, but to his overall presence as well.
“He helps us mentally,” Wilson said. “He’s just so experienced, so confident, and so calm.”
But it was the power of Denham that sealed Harvard’s 30-22 victory with a kill.
Bookman attributes the team’s win to recent attempt to concentrate on the fundamentals of volleyball.
“We needed to refocus on skill execution, remain calm, be positive and recommit to a team ethic,” Bookman said, “If we do all of those things we will execute skills better, have more fun, and if we’re having fun it’s likely to translate into wins.”
The Crimson’s next attempt to add to its win category is Thursday, when the team travels to Springfield to begin a second round of matchups against a series of Hay Division rivals.