M. Volleyball's Torrid Streak Continues

Sarah J. Murphy

The Harvard men’s volleyball team took to the floor against division opponents Vassar and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) this weekend at the Malkin Athletic Center. It came away with back-to-back victories to extend its win streak to seven and solidify its lead atop the Sweeney Division.

The Crimson (7-3, 4-0 Sweeney) dropped its first three games of the season, but since then, first-year head coach Chris Ridolfi has united his team and has Harvard playing with confidence.

“We tended to fall apart in the past,” captain Juan Ramos said. “But [the pressure] brought us together. It was really playing as a team that pushed us through.”


Harvard soundly defeated the Highlanders yesterday in three straight games, winning 30-25, 30-24, 30-23.

The Crimson played well throughout, but the Highlanders (6-5, 1-1) kept it close early as no team held more than a two-point lead for the first 30 points of the match. Behind the all-around strength of Ramos—who had 21 digs and seven kills in the match—Harvard built a lead and ended the first frame on a 5-0 run to move ahead 1-0.

The second game started close as well with the teams trading points. NJIT, led by freshman Eduardo Welter and senior Matt Thorkildsen, managed to keep within reach until the Crimson opened up a 24-19 lead on a 5-0 spurt, forcing a Highlander timeout.

After the break, both teams played nearly error-free volleyball, but Harvard held the lead and finished off the frame, 30-24.

In the third game, the Crimson jumped out early and extended its lead to 20-11 with a 9-2 run before NJIT responded with a 4-0 run of its own to cut the score to 20-15. But the team effort of Harvard was just too much for the Highlanders as the Crimson pulled away to close out the match, 30-23.

“It’s a kind of a coming together of all the things we have been working on in practice,” said junior middle hitter John Freese. “That’s why we did so well.”

The greatest change from Saturday’s game was the quality of the serving—especially in the play of Freese, who hadn’t served well on Saturday.

“We have a little rule,” Ridolfi said. “If we are winning or we’re tied, he’s allowed to jump serve—and if we’re not, than he has to float serve.”

Freese began the game float serving but moved to jump serves when Harvard held a lead. He recorded four aces in addition to seven blocks and five kills.

“I had problems in the past but I worked on it in practice,” Freese said of his serving. “[Today] I was able to relax and get my serves in.”

Overall the victory was a big one for the Crimson.

“We’re starting to become a good team,” Ridolfi said. “And [the win] gives us a little more breathing room in our conference.”


Harvard managed to eke out an emotional 3-2 (26-30, 30-25, 32-34, 30-21, 20-18) victory, winning in the closely contested fifth game of its Saturday afternoon match against division rival Vassar (3-11, 1-3).

The match was close the entire way through—filled with intense volleys, exuberant celebrations, and good deal of trash talk—keeping the Brewers’ bench standing through the entire game.

In the fifth and final frame, the Crimson started strong and clung to a small lead until Vassar closed the gap, tying the game at 13 on two sequential wide kills by Harvard.

With the match on the line, tied at 16, freshman outside hitter Brian Rapp-—who has not seen much action this season—was substituted in to serve. Given that many of the starters were not serving as well as usual, this situational tinkering by the Crimson coach proved very effective.

“We made the [substitution] with Brian, and he did a good job,” Ridolfi said.

In the final points of the frame, Harvard managed to put the game away with a solid sequence of attacks. A great play by senior outside hitter Abe Marouf followed by a monstrous kill by junior middle hitter Seamus McKiernan prevented the Brewers from avenging a 3-1 loss to the Crimson earlier this season.

McKiernan was a significant factor throughout the match, posting 26 kills and 12 digs to lead the team’s effort.

“When Seamus brings his A-game, he’s a tough guy to stop,” Ridolfi said.

To begin the match, Harvard came out somewhat sluggish—losing the opening game 30-26.

But soon enough the Crimson was back in form. In the second frame, after coming from behind initially, the team took a 13-9 lead over Vassar and never looked back en route to a 30-25 victory.

“It took us a little longer to warm-up this game,” Ramos said.

In the third game, the team began to struggle again before it rallied from a 9-4 deficit behind the play of Luke McCrone. The junior outside hitter scored three straight points to cut the Brewers’ lead to two.

Harvard eventually tied the frame at 15 and the teams traded the lead for some time before the Crimson finally gained a 31-30 advantage. But the Brewers took four of the next five points to take the game 34-32.

“They got back up and came at us,” Ridolfi said.

Harvard started off the fourth frame a little frustrated by its loss in the third game. A harsh exchange of words with the opposing team incited the referees to call offsetting point penalties to begin the game.

Nevertheless, the Crimson came out strong and built a solid lead to win the fourth frame in convincing fashion, 30-21. Both teams’ intensity set the stage for a great fifth game and, ultimately, a Harvard victory.

“You get better after a game like this,” Ridolfi said. “We’re still rolling right now.”