American Tie: W. Volleyball Loses 3 of 4 at DC Tourney

BUMP ON THE ROAD
Hillary W. Berkowitz

The women’s volleyball team went through a two-day gauntlet of tough non-conference opponents at the American Volleyball Tournament in Washington, D.C. this weekend. After a tourney-opening loss to Army, Harvard knocked off Lafayette in its late game on F

It was a trying weekend for the Harvard women’s volleyball team at the American Volleyball Tournament in Washington, D.C., as the Crimson dropped three out of four matches against tough non-conference opponents and fell to 3-4 on the season.

Harvard’s lone victory came in the late game Friday against Lafayette by a score of 3-1, following a 3-0 loss to Army earlier in the day. On Saturday, the Crimson was downed by American by a score of 3-1 and then fell to Navy, 3-0.

Despite the lopsided match results, Harvard contested most games closely but was simply unable to score 30 points first.

“It was very, very frustrating,” captain Suzie Trimble said. “We’d trade points back and forth until about 20, and then somehow, the other team would go on a four- or five-point run, which is never good when you’re that close to the end of the game.”

One especially bright spot for the Crimson was the play of sophomore libero Katherine Koucerek, who was named the tournament’s Best Digger.

The tournament was ultimately won by host American, which defeated the Penn, 3-2, in the final.

NAVY 3, HARVARD 0

The Crimson lost its final match of the tournament to the Midshipmen in straight games, losing 30-21, 30-23, 30-23.

The Saturday night match was the team’s fourth in two days, and in an effort to combat fatigue, coach Jennifer Weiss chose to substitute youth for experience. Freshman Mikaelle Comrie and Emily Harburg both saw significant action, with Harburg taking the court for the first time in her collegiate career.

Trimble, who, according to teammate and fellow senior Laura Mahon, has dealt with a nagging knee injury the past several years, was given the game off to rest for tomorrow night’s game against New Hampshire.

“By the final on Saturday evening playing Navy, we were all a little tired,” Mahon said.

Mahon led the Crimson with 12 kills, while junior Kathryn McKinley recorded 11. Sophomore Lily Durwood distributed 17 assists and added 10 digs.

Despite the strong individual efforts, the Crimson was unable to overcome a strong Midshipmen attack and dropped below .500 for the first time this season.

AMERICAN 3, HARVARD 1

If there is such thing as a good loss, perhaps this was it for the Crimson. Facing the eventual tournament champion and heavy favorite, Harvard stole the first game and played the Eagles close throughout before falling, 3-1 (25-30, 30-20, 30-23, 30-24).

American boasted a pair of 6’8 twins, Claire and Ann Recht, as well as 2006 Patriot League Player of the Year and tournament Most Valuable Player Rubena Sukaj, who went on to record 30 kills in the tournament final.

“They are a very good team,” Mahon said. “We had a great match against them.”

Mahon led the team with 13 kills, while sophomore Katherine Kocurek led all players with 22 digs. Junior Laura Mays contributed 22 assists.

HARVARD 3, LAFAYETTE 1

Mahon and McKinley both recorded double-doubles in kills and digs and Trimble recorded 16 kills to lead the team past Lafayette, 3-0 (30-27, 30-23, 20-30, 30-22), on Friday evening.

The Crimson won a tight first game and coasted in the second frame before failing to clinch the victory over the Leopards in the third game.

In game four, the Crimson pulled away late after being tied at 20. Harvard wrapped up the win with a strong sequence that began with a Trimble kill, continued with two service aces by sophomore Chelsea Ono Horn, and ultimately concluded with another kill by Trimble.

The Crimson also benefited from the strong play of Mays, who boasted 7 kills, a .581 hitting percentage, and zero errors.

“She’s extremely strong at the net,” Trimble said of Mays, “She uses her height to her advantage.”

ARMY 3, HARVARD 0

Harvard started the weekend off on the wrong foot, losing to the Black Knights in straight games, 30-24, 30-28, 30-24.

Trimble noted that the Crimson lacked the energy on the court that had been displayed the previous weekend while hosting the Harvard Invitational, and Mahon mentioned that the Crimson may have been unprepared for the level of play exhibited by their opponents.

“The Army match was the one that really could have been better,” Mahon said. “We weren’t quite expecting how disciplined they were going to be.”

The match also exemplified the team’s tendency to let close games slip away. Harvard was tied with Army at 22 at one point in the second game and down 22-21 at one point in the third game before ultimately losing both.

“If there’s one thing that we can work on as a team, it’s that when we lose a point and the other team is serving, we sometimes let it slip away for a couple points,” Mahon said, predicting that the team would improve in this regard as it gained more experience.

—Staff writer Douglas A. Baerlein can be reached at baerlein@fas.harvard.edu.

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