Freshman middle blocker Kyle Rehkemper (center) picked up a team-high 13 blocks against Princeton Saturday. Adding in 12 kills, the rookie helped his team quell a Tiger comeback by winning the final game, 15-10. The victory snapped a streak of four consecutive losses for Harvard.
Winning the first two games of its match against Princeton (1-11, 0-7 EIVA Tait) last Saturday at the Malkin Athletic Center, the Harvard men’s volleyball team (7-5, 0-3 EIVA Hay) seemed ready to put the Tigers to rest.
But with a huge momentum swing, Princeton clawed its way back to take the next two frames.
Down halfway through the fifth game, 7-3, the Crimson mounted a major comeback, taking the final frame, 15-10, and winning the match, 3-2.
“We got hot, and we were all fired up,” said freshman outside hitter Chris Gibbons of Harvard’s late comeback. “They couldn’t catch us.”
Coming into the match on a four-game losing streak, the Crimson started out with aggressive play, taking advantage of the Tigers’ overpasses and weak middle to build an 18-12 lead.
Gibbons furthered this lead with a streak of five serves, including an ace, that carried Harvard to a nine-point advantage.
The Crimson’s domination of the first frame was sealed with a kill slammed right down the middle of Princeton’s defense from junior outside hitter Matt Jones, winning the opening frame, 25-16.
“We passed well early. We were able to run the middle really well against them,” Jones said.
In the second game, both Harvard and the Tigers started off by taking advantage of the other’s overpasses and missed serves.
With the greatest point-difference in the frame only being four—in Princeton’s favor—the game was defined by constant side-outs from each team.
The Tigers gained the 24-23 advantage and were poised to take the game, when Gibbons slammed a deep cross-court kill that tied the score at 24.
The back-and-forth play continued until Jones produced a kill that gave Harvard the advantage.
The next rally, the freshman team of outside hitter Michael Owen and middle blocker Nick Madden went up for a crushing block that gave the Crimson the win, 29-27.
“The first two games, I really thought we played as well as we had all season,” Harvard coach Brian Baise said. “Our serve-receive and passing [were] much better.”
The third game found Princeton playing with more fire, jumping out to a 10-5 advantage.