And while they couldn’t claim two wins to their credit, Katie Turley-Molony and Sarah Cebron finished their Malkin Athletic Center careers with a flourish, as the Harvard women’s volleyball team came from behind to defeat Columbia in five games on Saturday afternoon after dropping a 3-2 heartbreaker against first-place Cornell on Friday night.
Both members of the Class of 2007 played well in their final home match: Cebron registered a double-double with 34 assists and 11 digs, while Turley-Molony added 13 kills—including a couple of key attacks in game five—to lead the Crimson (10-13, 4-8 Ivy) out of a 2-0 hole.
“They have been Harvard volleyball to me,” said sophomore outside hitter Kathryn McKinley. “They give their all every single day in practice, and, on the court, you can see it.”
Though the loss on Friday guaranteed that Harvard would finish with a sub-.500 league record for the second straight season, the win on Saturday created momentum for the Crimson heading into its final weekend of the season against Yale and Brown.
Harvard will travel to Providence, R.I., on Friday before finishing up the season against the rival Bulldogs Saturday afternoon in New Haven, Conn.
HARVARD 3, COLUMBIA 2
After taking a 2-0 lead on Friday night against the first-place Big Red, the Crimson found itself on the other end of a 2-0 margin on Saturday afternoon against the Lions.
Still, Harvard turned its play around, winning three straight frames to capture a 3-2 (25-30, 27-30, 30-24, 31-29, 15-12) victory.
The key to the Crimson’s turnaround was its blocking defense. In game three, Harvard held Columbia (7-15, 1-11) to a meager .100 hitting percentage, forcing eight attack errors and allowing only 14 kills en route to a 30-24 win.
“We really had a strategy,” McKinley said. “We started by taking them line, and then we decided to trust our blockers and let them take the hitter and then also to take angle, and that was extremely effective.”
The fifth frame, by contrast, was a shootout, with the Lions and the Crimson posting hitting percentages of .353 and .400, respectively. Down the stretch, juniors Mimi Hanley and Suzie Trimble took over the game, stuffing Columbia’s hitters while hammering kills of their own.
Hanley—who finished with 11 kills and eight blocks on the night—also helped drive the Crimson past the Lions at the end of game four. Posting three consecutive kills for Harvard, the right-side hitter prevented Columbia from taking a 29-27 lead and put the Crimson in position to escape with a 31-29 victory.
The offensive outburst was a welcome sight for Harvard after six straight games—the last four frames of the match against Cornell and the first two games against the Lions—of hitting percentages hovering around .100 or below.
“We just wanted it so badly,” McKinley said. “Not to say we haven’t wanted it badly before, but it was our house, and we just gave it our all.”
CORNELL 3, HARVARD 2
For half the night, it seemed as if the Crimson might pull off an upset.
With first-place Cornell fighting to stay ahead of Yale and Princeton in the Ivy League race, Harvard took the first two games of the match but dropped the next three to lose, 3-2 (21-30, 27-30, 30-24, 30-22, 15-7), on Friday night.
Buoyed by the return of libero Katherine Kocurek to the lineup, the Crimson came out firing in the first frame, jumping out to an 8-2 start. Although the Big Red (16-9, 10-2) closed the gap several times, Harvard never gave up its lead, coasting to a 30-21 win.
Cornell managed to slow down the Crimson offense in game two but Harvard turned up its defense as well, holding the Big Red to .093 hitting. Though Cornell led by as much as six, the Crimson tied the score at 19 and took a 26-22 lead.
Once again, the Big Red fought back, but McKinley posted four straight kills for Harvard to give the Crimson the 2-0 match lead.
“In games one and two, we came out with the attitude that we had nothing to lose,” Cebron said. “We came out with fire and confidence, and our passing was great.”
Down in a hole, Cornell regained its offensive rhythm. Led by reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Elizabeth Bishop, who finished with 23 kills and 15 digs on the night, the Big Red posted 38 kills spanning games three and four to post two victories and force a deciding fifth frame.
Harvard never stood a chance in game five, as Cornell took the first five points and kept increasing its lead en route to a 15-7 win.
“The trend for us this season has been to lose the first game, lose the first two games, and come from behind,” Cebron said. “Coming out so strong in those first two games, the victory was so close, you could almost taste it. We got a little nervous, and that added pressure to it—and Cornell just picked it up.”
—Staff writer Karan Lodha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.