Split Secures W. Volleyball Share of First Ivy Title

ALL SET
Joseph L. Abel

Co-captain Kim Gould sets during Harvard's 3-0 sweep pf Penn.

The Harvard women’s volleyball team came into this weekend in control of its own destiny and with the chance to clinch a share of the Ivy championship for the first time in its history. And by taking one of two matches in its final regular-season weekend, the Crimson did just that.

Harvard (15-9, 10-4 Ivy) lost 3-1 to Princeton (18-7, 9-4) on Friday but rebounded to sweep Penn (15-10, 7-6) 3-0 on Saturday. With the win against the Quakers, the Crimson guaranteed itself a share of first place—a feat it had never previously accomplished in 27 years of league play.

“I’m just so excited,” co-captain Kim Gould. “This whole year, all along, we’ve known we’ve had the potential to do it. It’s just been how to get there and stay mentally tough.”

By defeating Brown on Saturday, Cornell (16-8, 10-4) ensured itself a share of the Ivy championship as well. Both Yale and the Tigers—who also have four losses—can clinch a share of first place with wins on Wednesday, potentially creating the first four-way tie in Ancient Eight history.

In this case, a single-elimination playoff—with all games played at a neutral site—would determine the recipient of the automatic NCAA tournament berth. If Harvard were to earn the selection, it would be the program’s first NCAA tournament ever.

“At the NCAAs, you get to see something new from teams from all over the nation,” co-captain Kaego Obechie said.

HARVARD 3, PENN 0

It was déjà vu all over again.

For the second time this season, Harvard played Penn after losing a crucial game to Princeton. And for the second time this season, the Crimson delivered against the Quakers with the season on the line, routing Penn 3-0 (30-26, 30-22, 30-25).

“[In our last] five-game match with them, though it was a five-game match, we had the momentum on our side the whole time,” Ogbechie said. “It was really just about executing, and we were able to do that today.”

In the seniors’ final home appearance, the three members of the Class of 2005 led the team in the dominating sweep. Outside hitter Nilly Schweitzer led the attack with 14 kills, and Ogbechie and Gould both chipped in with double-doubles.

The seniors made their presence felt immediately in game one, with Harvard jumping out to a 9-3 lead. A series of kills and blocks by Ogbechie and freshman outside hitter Laura Mahon pushed the Crimson lead to 27-17, and the frame seemed all but decided.

But a 9-2 run by the Quakers put Harvard back on its heels, forcing it to take a timeout. Ogbechie then ended the game with a resounding kill up the middle.

The second frame was a defensive battle, with both squads hitting under .150. Neither team was able to take control for the majority of the game, with the sides exchanging points throughout. The tide turned at 20-19, when Ogbechie and Schweitzer led the Crimson on a 10-3 run to close out the frame 30-22.

With its hopes for a share of the Ivy championship fading, Penn refused to give up, competing fiercely in the third game and matching Harvard point for point.

But kills by Schweitzer and sophomore outside hitter Katie Turley-Molony and a backbreaking ace by sophomore setter Sarah Cebron put the Crimson up 28-23. A misplayed ball and a wide kill by Penn gave Harvard the victory.

“I just had so many emotions coming into the game,” Gould said. “It’s so nice to win at home.”

PRINCETON 3, HARVARD 1

Facing the team that ended its undefeated Ivy run earlier this season, the Crimson was eager to avenge the defeat. But Harvard came up short, losing to the Tigers 3-1 (23-30, 30-27, 30-23, 30-21).

The match was dictated by huge runs by both teams, with one squad jumping out to a large lead only to give up several points to the other.

“Ideally, we should be able to push through and sideout right away,” Gould said. “That was really our major problem, that we couldn’t sideout right away and [that we] let them get runs.”

The loss obscured a phenomenal achievement by Ogbechie. She posted 11 kills to reach the 1,000-kill career mark despite having missed the majority of last year with a knee injury.

“Last year, [Ogbechie] was injured all year,” Harvard coach Jennifer Weiss said. “Most attackers take four seasons before they get their 1,000. So, she’s just fabulous.”

While the Crimson had a strong offensive performance, the Princeton defense played even better. Many balls that seemed destined to hit the floor were saved by diving Tigers.

“Princeton played some great defense,” Weiss said. “They dug a lot of balls, so we had our hands full.”

“They pick up a lot of loose balls, and that’s frustrating as a hitter,” Schweitzer added.

After Harvard won the first game rather easily, the Princeton defense took control in the second frame. A series of wide kills and net violations by the Crimson allowed the Tigers to go on a 14-5 run to take a 29-19 lead. But Harvard went on a streak of its own, rolling off eight straight points before a service error by Schweitzer gave the game to Princeton.

The Crimson was unable to take advantage of this positive momentum in the third frame. Though Harvard took an early 9-4 lead, the Tigers battled back to go ahead 14-13—a lead they never relinquished for the rest of the game.

The Crimson never led in the fourth frame, hitting a feeble .071. Princeton, jumping ahead by an early 8-0 margin, cruised to a 30-21 win to end the match and keep its Ivy championship hopes alive.

“It’s always hard to come back from that kind of deficit,” Schweitzer said. “We can’t dig ourselves into that kind of hole—we did it in games two, three, and four. But I think our team showed a lot of spirit by coming back the way we did.”

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