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 3, NJIT 0
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.”