After Friday’s stunning 3-0 loss to Cornell, the Crimson (13-7, 8-2 Ivy) punished Columbia in a 3-0 shutout victory on Saturday.
The Cornell loss was a disappointing one indeed, as the Big Red used the victory to pull even with Harvard into a tie for first place in the Ivy League.
“In general, our heads just weren’t all there,” said senior setter Kim Gould.
While the victory over cellar dweller Columbia put the Crimson back on track, a two-game road test against Brown and Yale this weekend will be critical in the Ivy title race.
HARVARD 3, COLUMBIA 0
A close first frame suggested that the long road trip might have caught up to the Crimson, but Harvard established a rhythm in the latter two games to take the match (30-28, 30-17, 30-18) going away.
The Crimson was unable to establish an offensive rhythm early, hitting only .192 in the opening game. Seven first-game attack errors by Harvard gave Columbia early momentum. The Lions (3-19, 1-9) executed 16 kills in the match’s opening frame and kept the frustrated Crimson squad on its heels. “In the first set we were kind of coming off jitters from the Cornell game andtrying to get our rhythm back,” Gould said. “Once we started playing well and playingtogether, it just escalated from there.”
With revived confidence, the Harvard offense turned it on over the next two games behind the efforts of senior outside hitter Nilly Schweitzer. Schweitzer recorded 12 kills on the afternoon. Co-captain and middle hitter Kaego Ogbechie saw to it that Columbia’s offense wouldn’t turn in similar numbers, tallying three blocks and clogging up the middle against the struggling Lions.
“When you play a team that does play at a slower pace, you find that in thefirst game it’s a little more difficult to get your rhythm,” Ogbechie said. “By the second game, you step up the defense and that usually makes the rest of your game easier.”
Harvard utilized that strategy perfectly in the second and third frames, holding Columbia to just 10 kills in each game. Schweitzer and Ogbechie—13 digs each—stalled the efforts of the Lions’ hitters throughout the match.
The Crimson front line, conversely, had few problems after its sluggish start. Freshman middle hitter Suzie Trimble turned in 10 kills and a .471 hitting percentage on the afternoon, and 17 kills in the second game gave Harvard the momentum heading into the next frame.
The third game reflected Harvard’s offensive efficiency, as the Crimson recorded a .360 hitting percentage. Harvard needed only 14 kills in the final frame to defeat the Lions, who could muster just .030 hitting percentage against the Crimson defense.
“We kind of realized after the first game that we should be getting more blocksand getting four hands up on every ball,” Gould said.
The Crimson responded to the call, finishing the afternoon’s game with eight blocks and forcing 24 Columbia attack errors.
CORNELL 3, HARVARD 0
Seven hours removed from the comforts of Cambridge, the Crimson couldn’t repeat its home 3-2 win over Cornell and fell to its Ivy rival 3-0.
“It’s never really a large factor, but being in a different territory is always a mental and physical strain on the team,” Ogbechie said.That strain contributed to a rout on Friday, as the visiting Crimson could not recover from the evening’s 25 attack errors and suffered just its second Ivy loss on the year.
Freshman outside hitter Laura Mahon did her best to inspire the Harvard offense, hitting for 10 kills on the game. Mahon’s 20 digs were a team-high as well, but the Crimson just couldn’t get started amidst several critical miscues.
In the opening game, Harvard recorded 15 kills to Cornell’s 13, but nine Crimson attack errors kept the momentum with the Big Red. The combination of Cornell’s Rachel Adomat and Elizabeth Bishop—14 and 10 kills, respectively—spurred the Big Red offense. And near the end of the frame, a mounting Harvard run was cut short by five consecutive attack errors, and the Crimson fell 24-30.
“We made errors at times when we had started to pull close to them,” Gould said. “Then it was hard to come back from that, and we let them get runs off our mistakes.”
The Big Red dominated on the defensive front as well, turning up the heat on Harvard’s front line as the contest wore on. Kelly Kramer turned in 19 digs for the Big Red and teammate Bishop added 18. Cornell also recorded 10 blocks in the match and limited the Crimson to just .078 hitting efficiency on the evening.
“Overall, they’re a strong blocking team,” Gould said. “Usually a lot of teams will have a weaker side of the court, but they didn’t. They also have a great defense, and that gets in the hitter’s head a little bit.”
In the match’s decisive set, Cornell’s blockers smothered the Harvard offense and forced the Crimson hitters into 10 attack errors. Harvard’s attempts to overcome numerous offensive mistakes proved fruitless, as the Big Red shredded the Crimson defense with 13 kills and just two miscues. Ogbechie fought the Big Red rally with 11 digs on the match, but Cornell was too strong for the reeling Crimson.
“We just kind of let them control the pace of the match and weren’t playing aggressively against them,” Gould said.