With a big weekend coming up, this was just what the doctor ordered.
Traveling to Beverly, Mass., to face NECVA opponent Endicott, the Harvard men’s volleyball team won three close games to capture its second victory of the season, prevailing 3-1 (26-30, 32-30, 31-29, 31-29) last night at MacDonald Gymnasium.
All three frames that the Crimson (2-7, 1-1 Hay) won went to extra points. But the Harvard players looked at the situation as an indication of their squad’s resolve.
“It’s a good sign that when we needed to, we turned it on,” co-captain John Freese said. “That’s a real confidence-builder.”
Despite the absence of co-captain and reigning team MVP Seamus McKiernan, who did not travel with the team due to illness, the Crimson attack performed well, posting 79 kills on .287 hitting.
Three Harvard players reached double-digits in kills, with senior outside hitter Luke McCrone leading the pack with 19. Freese—striking at a clip of .484—and junior middle hitter Andy Nelson chipped in with 16 each.
The offensive success could be attributed in large part to the return of setter Dave Fitz. Although the junior saw limited action against Vassar last week, the contest against the Gulls (9-8, 4-2 NECVA) was his first full match since recovering from a bone bruise to his ankle.
With Fitz back in the lineup, sophomore setter Brian Rapp moved to the back row and registered 16 digs on the night.
“Not to take anything away from Rapp, but I’ve been hitting off of Dave for two years now,” Freese said. “It’s always good to get things back to normal, back to what you’re used to.”
In the first game, the Crimson came out attacking and punished the Endicott defense. But several service errors hampered Harvard, allowing the Gulls to open up a small gap late in the frame and take the 30-26 win.
Game two was tightly fought as well, with the two squads trading points throughout. A kill by freshman middle hitter Brady Weissbourd gave the Crimson the game point at 29-28, but Harvard errors kept Endicott in the frame until Clay Ostrander’s attack error gave the game to the Crimson, 32-20.
“We just had a little more confidence today, something we haven’t had for a while,” Fitz said. “No matter what the score, we knew we were going to win.”
In the third and fourth frames, Harvard opened up large cushions midway through the games, leading by as much as six before allowing the Gulls to recover.
Both times, Endicott fought back to take the lead, capitalizing on several Crimson mistakes. But with the win on the line, Harvard delivered, escaping 31-29 in both frames.
The tight victory stood in stark contrast to the Crimson-Gulls contest last year, when Harvard dominated Endicott in a 3-0 rout—part of its record 13-match win streak.
“If we can just fix that piece in the middle where we let them back in,” Freese said, “we can start rolling through teams like we did last year.”
The success came at a timely juncture for the Crimson, as the team will travel south to face Hay Division opponents New Haven and New Jersey Tech this weekend.
With Harvard having played only two league matches so far, this weekend’s matches will set the tone for the rest of the season.
As such, the Crimson hopes to continue its current upward trend—it has won two of its last three—and to get back to the court as soon as possible.
“I think it’s good that we only have one day off,” Freese said. “When you win a game, you get a little momentum. If we play our cards right, it can work in our favor.”
—Staff writer Karan Lodha can be reached at email@example.com.