For the Harvard women’s volleyball team, it was a season of impressive accomplishments juxtaposed with frustrating defeats. It was a combination of epic comebacks and dropped leads. It was a season of opposites that balanced out to a 10-16 record and hopes for next season.
The Crimson closed out the 2008 campaign fifth in the Ivy League, having gone 5-9 against conference opponents. Harvard had difficulty dealing with the likes of Yale, Cornell, Penn, and Princeton, and was unable to defeat these Ivy League opponents despite coming close on several occasions. But Harvard easily handled Dartmouth and Columbia, sweeping both matchups over the course of the season.
Senior Kathryn McKinley set the offensive rhythm for the Crimson, ranking first on the team in kills at 327. McKinley played in all 97 of Harvard’s games, and the statistical pinnacle of her play came on Oct. 10 and 11 at Brown and Yale, when the senior racked up a combined 46 kills and 39 digs. But despite McKinley’s efforts, Harvard fell in both games.
In addition to the team’s seniors, junior co-captains Katherine Kocurek and Lily Durwood excelled this season. Durwood tossed up 1034 assists, good for second in the conference, while Kocurek focused on the defensive elements of the game and registered 348 digs.
“We were the strongest we’ve been since I’ve been playing Harvard volleyball,” Kocurek said.
Prior to Ancient Eight competition, the Crimson witnessed mixed results. Competing in assorted non-conference matchups and three invitationals, Harvard entered the Ivy season with a 7-7 record and a six-game win streak. It could not handle then-No. 22 Long Beach State, losing three games in a row at home, but took control several weeks later to win the Dartmouth Invitational.
Prominent accomplishments this season included coach Jennifer Weiss’ 200th career victory, Kocurek and McKinley’s 1000th career digs and freshman Anne Carroll Ingersoll’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors.
The Crimson also displayed its resilience, earning several victories with substantial comebacks—including its 3-2 decision over New Hampshire early in the season. Down 24-11 in the second set, Harvard rallied and put up 13 straight points to tie the game and set up the victory. Although the Wildcats grabbed the next two sets, the Crimson reestablished dominance in the fifth to emerge victorious.
But the marathon matchup against New Hampshire was the only five-game match that the Crimson won all year. Harvard struggled to finish strong in contests that extended beyond four games, losing five such matches throughout the season. Shorter matches went both ways—the Crimson posted six shutouts and was held winless in seven confrontations.
“When it’s five games and 25 points, you really can’t tell by looking at the score,” McKinley said. “We fought for every point.”
Although McKinley graduates this year, Harvard can look forward to the return of several rising sophomores in addition to Ingersoll—Christine Wu and Sandra Lynne Fryhofer. Each will provide valuable talent in different areas of the court. Wu led the team in digs with 378 and was sixth overall in the Ivy League in the category. Playing in 21 matches, Fryhofer dropped 40 blocks on opposing teams while racking up 143 kills, finishing third and fourth on the team in those statistics, respectively.
“Each of the freshmen has their own personality—strong, reassuring, constantly supportive, or just them tearing it up,” McKinley said.
Next year the Crimson will look to its rising sophomores and incoming co-captains Chelsea Ono Horn and Miyoko Pettit, a rising senior and junior, respectively, to shift the balance towards the win column.
—Staff writer Emmett Kistler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.