After dropping its home opener to TCU 3-1, the Harvard women’s volleyball team rebounded to top St. Peter’s by the same margin, earning a split in this weekend’s New England Challenge at the Malkin Athletic Center.
Co-captain Kaego Ogbechie, who sat out most of last season with a knee injury, led the Crimson (1-1) in kills in both matches, while senior Nilly Schweitzer recorded her first double-double of the season with 15 kills and 14 digs against the Peahens.
“It felt really good [to be back out there],” Ogbechie said. “I love the game, whether I’m on the court or off the court...but it makes everything worthwhile to be able to go out there and compete against another team.”
Harvard coach Jennifer Weiss rotated co-captain Kim Gould and sophomore Sarah Cebron at the setter position, in order to keep three hitters on the front row at all times. Gould and Cebron registered at least 20 assists a piece in each of the two contests.
“It’s a little hard to get in rhythm at times,” Gould said. “But I think it’ll be great for our team, because we have a lot more depth than we’ve ever had and allows us to have a lot bigger block and more hitters.”
HARVARD 3, ST. PETER’S 1
After splitting the first two games, Harvard dominated the third frame and rallied from behind in the fourth to claim its first win of the season, 3-1 (30-26, 28-30, 30-18, 30-28).
Trailing 20-16 in game four, the Crimson took six out of the next eight points, including three straight Ogbechie kills, to pull even at 22.
St. Peter’s seemed to snatch the momentum right back, recording two straight kills, but two straight Harvard blocks kept the Peahens from running away with the game. After another Ogbechie kill brought the Crimson even at 28, St. Peter’s sent two straight kills wide, giving Harvard the game and the match.
“We felt we had control over the game the whole time and that if we played our game, we thought we should win,” Gould said. “We maintained our composure well and we were never flustered.”
The hotly contested final frame came directly after the Crimson seemed to have broken through in game three, when the team recorded a .405 hitting percentage and, after jumping out to a 13-5 lead, did not allow the Peahens within six points. Schweitzer sparked Harvard’s game three outburst, recording seven of her 15 kills in that frame.
The Crimson got off to a quick start in game one, capitalizing on four St. Peter’s errors to jump out to a 6-4 lead. The Peahens’ attack began to click, however, as they ran off runs of 6-0 and 8-0 to claim a 21-16 lead. St. Peter’s faltered down the stretch, committing two net violations and firing a kill attempt into their own net, while Harvard got a couple of crucial kills from freshman Suzie Trimble en route to a 30-26 win. It was the Crimson’s worst frame in terms of its attack, as the squad registered 12 kills, but committed 12 errors for a hitting percentage of .000.
TCU 3, HARVARD 1
It didn’t take long for Texas Christian University to realize it was much more fun to be in New England than to weather Hurricane Frances.
A week after the Horned Frogs (4-2) went winless at the Hurricane Frances Classic, which was thrown together by Miami (Ohio) after the Gator Invitational was cancelled due to that particular spawn of the tropics, TCU entered the first game of the New England Challenge looking for its first victory.
And the Horned Frogs didn’t waste much time going after it.
TCU took the first two games by the scores of 30-20 and 30-14, but struggled to hold off a Crimson squad, which was improving with every play, en route to a 3-1 (30-20, 30-14, 27-30, 30-26) victory.
After getting hammered in the first two games of the match, Harvard matched the Horned Frogs point-for-point in the third frame. Neither side could claim more than a two-point advantage until a bad pass by TCU gave the Crimson a 22-19 lead. Harvard took seven of the next 11 points to push the gap to six, 29-23.
The Crimson had a bit of trouble closing out the match, as Horned Frog freshman Talaya Whitfield recorded four straight kills, before Harvard freshman Mimi Hanley finished a kill of her own to give the Crimson the game.
“Mimi’s done an awesome job subbing in on the right side, blocking, hitting and finding holes in the defense,” Gould said.
The momentum carried over to the fourth frame, as Harvard jumped out to an 11-5 lead. But the Crimson attack could only muster one kill over the next 14 points, allowing the Horned Frogs to wipe away the deficit and stake to a four-point lead of their own, 17-13. Harvard stayed with TCU the rest of the way, but could never chip away at the lead, falling by the same margin, 30-26.
“We got better with each game,” Weiss said. “But there were some jitters there while we got the kinks worked out.”
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.