On the heels of the Crimson’s first-ever league championship just a year earlier, a winless 2005 campaign against Ancient Eight opponents proved a huge disappointment to the Crimson.
Eight months later, and through no shortage of hard work, Harvard’s fortunes are rising once more. With renewed vigor, a solid technical foundation, and superb team chemistry, the Crimson (8-5, 2-0 Ivy) is rolling—and its stars are shining.
Middle hitters Suzie Trimble and Katie Turley-Molony have reestablished Harvard as a force to be reckoned with on offense, a team strength sorely missed last year after the departure of legendary middle hitter Kaego Ogbechie ’05.
“I think they’re the top two middles in the conference,” coach Jennifer Weiss said of Trimble and Turley-Molony.
Indeed, Trimble’s 155 kills and .423 hitting percentage place her second in the Ivy League, while Turley-Molony’s production of 138 kills is not far behind.
“[Suzie and Katie] are proving to our opponents that they’ve got to honor everybody,” Weiss said, referring to last Friday’s match at Dartmouth in which Turley-Molony exploded for 18 kills after the Big Green tried to triple-block Trimble.
Both Trimble and Turley-Molony cite the excellent play of their setters, senior Sarah Cebron and freshman Lily Durwood, as a prime reason for their stellar performance thus far.
“The great thing about this team is that we all have trust,” Turley-Molony said. “I know that everyone will be able to step up and put the ball where it needs to be. Our setters make great decisions.”
Despite the fact that Harvard’s offense demands more movement from setters than any other position, Cebron was quick to heap accolades back on her middles.
“Katie and Suzie both know how to place shots on both sides,” Cebron said. “They both are really versatile hitters, they know when to crush the ball and when to tip it. They get tons of tips by just being smart.”
Crimson setters and hitters all benefit from the scrappy defensive performances of junior co-captain outside hitter Laura Mahon and freshman libero Katherine Kocurek, whose 219 digs place her second in the Ivy league.
“We’re giving all our hitters second and third opportunities to win points,” Mahon said.
Coming off six straight wins, Harvard is rolling into its weekend showdowns against Penn and undefeated Princeton—and chomping at the bit to prove that last year’s performance was an aberration.
“This is a great opportunity to beat two solid teams and show everyone that we’re back,” Mahon said.
With the cannon-like spikes of Trimble and Turley-Molony softening their opponents, the Crimson is confident.
“We play with calm intensity,” Turley-Molony said. “As much as I jump up and down and go crazy, there are people who counterbalance it with calm, focused play.”
Veteran leadership in the middle gives Harvard the confidence to remain calm and to let the skills developed through rigorous off-season and summer training regimines come to the fore.
“100 percent of the time we’ll have someone in the front row who knows what she’s doing,” Mahon said. “We know that in tight spots in the game, when we get the ball to [Trimble and Turley-Molony], it’s more than likely going to be a kill.”