Taking on Sacred Heart at the Pitt Center, the Harvard men’s volleyball team proved just that, pulling through with a 3-2 (30-23, 27-30, 30-17, 22-30, 15-12) win on Friday night after a back-and-forth match against the Pioneers.
Contributing to the Crimson’s victory, sophomore Brady Weissbourd, Gil Weintraub, and Laurence Favrot posted 15, 13 and 11 kills, respectively. Andy Nelson and Jordan Weitzen each nailed 10 kills overall, and Brian Rapp tallied 10 digs.
“We spread the ball around pretty well, and we had five guys in double digits,” Harvard coach Christopher Ridolfi said. “And we played well in the first game—steady—and we were able to come away with a win.”
The Crimson surged ahead in the opening game, taking a 15-9 lead. Although the Pioneers narrowed the gap to three points, Harvard rallied back and ultimately knocked out a 30-23 victory through consistency and focus.
But in the second contest, the Crimson lost its rhythm, dropping to a .194 hitting percentage. Squandering its chances to win, Harvard allowed Sacred Heart to tie it up at 25 and yielded to the Pioneers, 30-27.
“We just didn’t play our game in games two and four,” Ridolfi said. “We need to be doing that no matter who we’re playing or where we’re at, so we’re going to be working on getting better at that.”
Bouncing back in the third game, the Crimson improved to a solid .682 hitting percentage, racking up 16 kills with only one error to overpower Sacred Heart, 30-18.
Yet Harvard faltered against Sacred Heart’s attack in the fourth game, slipping 30-22. As the Crimson lost its momentum, making 11 errors to counter its 11 kills, the Pioneers capitalized on those mistakes and posted a .423 hitting percentage, their best of the night.
“We hit zero,” Ridolfi said. “We just made too many mistakes. If we make 11 attacking errors, that’s just half the game for them.”
After racking up a nine-point lead, Harvard squandered its chances to come out on top, as Sacred Heart fought back to tie the game at 18. Boosted by an energetic home court, the Pioneers rallied to seize victory in the fourth and force the fifth and tie-breaking game.
“I think we just got a little bit complacent at times,” Ridolfi said. “And [with Sacred Heart] playing at home in front of a wild crowd—once they got even with us, being home helped them win the game. It’s stuff we have to overcome early in the season.”
The Crimson recovered its focus in the fifth and final game, hammering out the first three points against the Pioneers. Though Sacred Heart cut Harvard’s lead to one point at 11-10, the Crimson pounded out a victory, 15-12, with Weitzen’s kill ending the match.
“If we can become a better team on the road,” Ridolfi said, “we’ll turn out to be pretty good.”
With this win under its belt, Harvard will challenge Vassar next Saturday in New York.
—Staff writer Courtney D. Skinner can be reached at email@example.com.