Harvard found another gear in the final ten points of its games, using its confidence from the previous weekend’s victory to pull off a 3-1 victory (31-29, 30-28, 27-30, 34-32) over East Stroudsburg (ESU) on Saturday afternoon at the Malkin Athletic Center.
The win was the Crimson’s second in eight days over the Warriors (10-6, 5-2 Hay), which did not lose its first league game until March 11 against Harvard (10-9, 8-3).
“In volleyball, the points from twenty to thirty are really the most important,” co-captain Seamus McKiernan said. “Today it just depended on which team could make that final push.”
On Saturday, that team was the Crimson.
Having struggled earlier in the season with closing out games, Harvard intensified its play in the final points of the contest against ESU.
The match was a nail-biter from the start, with neither team gaining a significant advantage in any given game. Each of the four games came down to the last few points, and the match’s fourth frame—the clincher for Harvard—went several points above 30 before the Crimson was able finally to win by two.
In the final minutes of the fourth game Harvard jumped out to several one-point leads, only to see ESU tie the score on the ensuing play. As a raucous home crowd cheered before every serve, any tension-filled point might have meant the difference between a Crimson victory and a decisive fifth game.
“You have to tighten up because you don’t want to make a mistake, but you have so much energy going through your body that you want to hit it as hard as you can,” senior Luke McCrone said. “It’s always hard to keep that in check, but it’s a lot of fun.”
“In that fourth game, our motivation was just not having to go to that fifth game,” added McKiernan, who had four kills in the final ten points of the decisive game. “We knew that we really didn’t want to have our backs against the wall.”
The match began with the Crimson jumping out to a quick two-game lead, and it looked as if Harvard was en route to an easy 3-0 victory over the Warriors. The last ten points again saw the two teams going down to the wire, but two key offensive errors on the Crimson’s side of the court enabled ESU to pull out the win.
“I think we might have taken it for granted that we were going to win the match,” McCrone said. “We kind of waited for it to happen, and they took it.”
Both teams had something to prove on Saturday afternoon. The Warriors were looking for redemption for the March 11 loss, while the Crimson was out to make a statement to the league that its first win over previously undefeated ESU was for real.
“We knew that they would come here thinking that last week’s win was a fluke,” McKiernan said, adding that the team’s seniors had worked hard in practice all week to keep the team from becoming overconfident and complacent. “That [match] was last week—it’s over. We had to bring the fire and we played our best match of the season.”