Bulldogs Shock W. Volleyball in Sweep

SPLIT DECISION
Joseph L. Abel

Sophomore Katie Turley-Moloney and the women's volleyball teamsplit a pair of weekend games to retain a share of first place in the Ivy League.

Despite splitting two difficult Ivy road contests against Brown and Yale, the Harvard women’s volleyball team (15-7, 9-3 Ivy) still remains in a tie for first place with Cornell heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

The Big Red will host the Bears and Bulldogs to close out the season, while Penn and Princeton visit the Malkin Athletic Center to take on the Crimson. Harvard is 7-1 at home on the season and 5-0 in Ivy League play with its only loss coming to TCU in the season opener.

A sweep of the Quakers and Tigers will guarantee the Crimson at least a share of the Ivy title.

“Everyone wants to knock you out of No. 1 when you are No. 1,” co-captain Kaego Ogbechie said. “We know that there’s pressure, but that’s why we love it.”

YALE 3, HARVARD 0

Nobody bothered to tell the Yale women’s volleyball team that Harvard-Yale was still two weeks away.

The Bulldogs (12-7, 7-4) avenged a 3-0 October loss to the Crimson in Cambridge, burying Harvard 3-0 in New Haven this weekend. A rowdy J. Lee Amphitheater crowd spurred on the Bulldogs in their final homestand of the season, as the Crimson found it difficult to match the intensity of its rivals.

“There’s nothing better for Yale than to play their last home match against Harvard, the first-seeded team [in the league],” Ogbechie said. “We needed to step up, but it happened too late.”

Harvard found itself playing catchup against the Bulldogs from the very beginning. The first match went back-and-forth until the score got into the 20s, when Harvard grabbed a 23-22 lead. But Yale rallied for four straight points en route to a 30-25 first set victory, and the Crimson would never seize the momentum again.

Ogbechie’s match-high 16 kills kept the Crimson alive in the second and third games, but no other Harvard player would reach the double digits in the same category. Yale recorded 19 kills to the Crimson’s 13 in the second match, registering a scorching .293 hitting percentage.

Harvard was efficient as well with a .244 percentage, but four Yale hitters—Kali Nelson, Jana Freeman, Shannon Farrell and Renee Lopes—quieted any hope of a Harvard comeback with a combined 48 kills. Sophomore setter Sarah Cebron turned in 12 digs and Ogbechie added 11, but the effort on the back row wasn’t enough to contain the Bulldogs. Yale finished the match with a .273 hitting percentage and recorded 54 kills on the afternoon.

“We were on the defensive most of the time, and they were playing at us,” said freshman outside hitter Laura Mahon. “I don’t think we took it back up and played at them.”

Harvard tried to pick up the offense in the third game, but the hostile crowd kept up its antics and quelled any semblance of a Crimson comeback. The rattled front line from Harvard registered 17 kills but committed six attack errors in the match’s final frame.

“The momentum of the crowd, the reffing—everything seemed to fall on their side,” Ogbechie said. “And things happen to fall on your side when you play well.”

HARVARD 3, BROWN 2

Harvard managed to overcome a tremendous defensive display by Brown to grab a 3-2 (32-34, 31-29, 30-26, 26-30, 15-13) victory Friday night at the Pizzitola Center.

The Bears were swept by the Crimson just two weeks earlier, but Brown forged a 95-73 advantage in digs and an 11-9 lead in total blocks in this contest allowing it to push Harvard to the limit.

The Bears outhit the Crimson as well, recording a .211 hitting percentage to the Crimson’s .170. But Brown’s 12 service errors and 40 attack errors ultimately proved to be its undoing.

“On the whole, I think we have a stronger offense,” Mahon said. “Despite their higher numbers [of kills], we were more consistent. They had a lot of kills in pockets, but we were more consistent in when we had our kills.”

Ogbechie led the Crimson with 18 kills and was one of three Harvard players—including Schweitzer and Mahon—to post a double-double in kills and digs.

The Crimson came out firing in game five, putting Brown in a hole quickly. The Bears began to fight their way out of it, but ran out of points as Harvard held on for the 15-13 win.

“We had some breakdowns—it was mostly letting strings of points go by—but for the most part we definitely stepped it up, and in the fifth game, we were steady,” Mahon said. “We got off to a quick start and a quick lead, and then we pulled through.”

The victory moved the Crimson to 3-1 in five-game matches in Ivy play.

Harvard had won two straight games heading into the fourth frame and seemed to have broken Brown’s early momentum. But the Bears fought back, taking game four 30-26 to force the decisive fifth frame.

Brown opened up the contest looking to put forth a better showing than it had against the Crimson in October. The strong defense and blocking allowed the Bears to hang around in the first game and some key Harvard miscues gave Brown a 34-32 win in the opening frame.

“In the first game we were really frustrated that we let it get away, because we made some errors,” co-captain Kim Gould said. “We really played better after that first game—it was a reality check.”

—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at mrjames@fas.harvard.edu.

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