After its last contest at Rivier was postponed due to inclement weather, the Harvard men’s volleyball team was forced to endure a different kind of storm on Saturday, as a torrent of Tiger hits and kills proved to be too much for the Crimson (0-5).
Despite the return of co-captain Gil Weintraub, playing in his second game this season, and strong performances from freshman setter Rob Lothman and co-captain Eric Kuld, Harvard got off to a slow start in the first set of Saturday’s Ivy League matchup in the Malkin Athletic Center, allowing Princeton (3-4. 0-1 EIVA) to take a 4-0 lead early in the first set and cruise to the 3-0 victory.
“I think anyone who watched that knew that it wasn’t really a great performance,” Weintraub said. “We have a lot to work on.”
About midway through the first set, it looked as though the Crimson might be able to dig itself out of an early hole, as strong service by sophomore outside hitter Matt Jones brought the Crimson within two points of the Tigers. But Princeton’s consistent hitting allowed the Tigers to pull away from Harvard and come out of the first set with a 30-24 victory.
The Crimson stayed on pace with Princeton for the first few points of the second set, but once again, scoring runs put the Tigers out ahead.
Although the gap was close at times, the lead would never change. Steady blocking from Princeton won it the game, 30-23.
Because Harvard wasn’t serving well in the first two games, the team was forced to switch to float serves in the third set. This shift in tactic, though necessary according to Jones, allowed Princeton to dig the ball out more easily and for their offense to take over the game.
“We gave up points in runs; we missed three or four passes in a row,” Jones said. “Once they have that lead, it’s hard to fight back.”
Big hitting from Princeton junior outside hitter Vincent Tuminelli carried the Tigers in the third set.
Although the game was tied at four, Princeton steadily pulled ahead of the Crimson in a similar fashion to the second set.
Although Harvard rallied after a timeout near the end of the game to bring the game within four points, the consistent Princeton offense overtook Harvard and coasted to another 30-23 win.
“We don’t have a very deep bench right now, so we’re forced to play with a lot of rotations,” Weintraub said. “It’s a little uncomfortable for us right now. I think we just have to work through that. Good teams can overcome these obstacles.”
Weintraub led Harvard with 12 kills on the day. Lothman also had an impressive game, recording 20 assists for the Crimson. Kuld and Jones contributed nine and six kills respectively, while sophomore middle blocker Nicola Ivica recorded five block assists.
Defensively, freshman setter Derek Jansma led the team with six digs.
Entering Saturday’s matchup, the Crimson had lost its first four games, most recently to Baruch in three sets on Feb. 4. Princeton beat Harvard last year as well in three close sets.
The Tigers’ Tuminelli led the charge against Harvard with 15 kills, followed by Carl Hamming with 12 kills. Scott Liljestrom contributed 41 assists for Princeton. The dominant trio led the Tigers’ offensive effort to defeat the Crimson in three sets.
Although Harvard was swept, the Crimson was able to win the first game point each time, a testament to the team’s composure with the game on the line.
“It’s good to be resilient and not give up,” Weintraub said. “But I think it’s more important not to be put in that position where you’re so far down that it’s not even possible to come back.”
Although the team was disappointed by the loss and by Harvard’s inability to play to its potential, the Crimson is looking forward to tomorrow night, when it will travel across town to MIT in search of its first win.