Harvard Drops Five-Set Thriller to Dartmouth in Ivy Opener
After two hours of action on Saturday evening, the Ivy League opener between Harvard women’s volleyball (7-4, 0-1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (9-3, 1-0) had yet to be decided. Knotted at two sets apiece, the Crimson carried momentum into the decisive fifth set after winning the fourth game, 25-15.
That momentum dissipated quickly, as Harvard missed two serves within the first five points and had a close call overturned at three-all. Despite falling further behind, the Crimson gave hope to the Malkin Athletic Center crowd as it pulled within one at 10-9. The Big Green’s offensive attack quelled the comeback, as it edged the home team, 15-10, to seal the victory.
“Coming into it, we were super pumped; [it’s the] Ivy League opener,” co-captain Christine Wu said. “We matched up really well against Dartmouth, and I think we did well preparing for it.”
Despite the high energy, Harvard needed to call a quick timeout after falling behind, 10-5, in the opening game. Dartmouth extended its lead to 16-8 before the Crimson went on a tear, going on an 11-2 run. Junior Beth Kinsella gave Harvard the 19-18 lead on an emphatic kill assisted by Wu.
Digging in its heels, the visiting team’s defense stopped the barrage. Followed up by a pair of kills from front-line duo Alex Schoenberger and Elisa Scudder, the Big Green went on to win the first game, 25-22.
“Every single point really matters,” Wu said. “Once they got onto our run and got in their groove, we have to find someway to stop them because volleyball is such a game of momentum.”
The Crimson regained its footing in the second set, stringing together three consecutive kills within the first five points, but several Harvard service errors allowed a Dartmouth comeback. Following a 13-13 tie, neither team opened up a lead of more than two points. With a kill from sophomore Teresa Skelly, the Crimson edged out the Big Green, 25-23, knotting the match at one apiece.
The third set proved to be more of the same, with both teams struggling to create a comfortable lead.
Wu and Dartmouth co-captain Amber Bryant battled throughout the match, leading their respective teams in digs. Wu totaled 30 digs compared to Amber’s 26.
“They have a little bit of a new defense system going on, and next time we see them, we just have to run a faster pace,” Harvard coach Jennifer Weiss said.
While Harvard opened a lead of 20-15 in the third, the Big Green clawed its way back to sneak out a 26-24 win.
Down by a set, the Crimson had to regroup.
“At that point, you’ve got nothing to lose,” Wu said. “It’s our house, it’s our game. We have to defend our court.”
In the fourth set, Harvard built a lead and ran with it. With the help of its outside hitters, freshman Kristen Casey and junior Taylor Docter, the Crimson opened things up. Following an 8-8 tie, Harvard stormed on a 17-7 run and took the fourth, 25-15.
Casey and Docter were two of three Crimson players who finished the match with double-figure hit counts. Casey led the pack with 17 kills, while Docter and Skelley chipped in 14 kills apiece.
In the fifth and final set, the home team couldn’t carry over its momentum.
“We can’t make any mistakes at all,” Weiss said. “It comes down to a few [points], and they earned theirs. You’ve got to earn them all the time. We’ve had quite a few game fives, and you just can’t hesitate.”
Opening with two service errors in the first five points, Harvard hesitated to finish off Dartmouth. The Big Green led from the start of the tiebreaker, and closed out the match with a 15-10 victory.
“We were just hoping that they would make mistakes and that’s how we would earn our points,” Wu said. “We weren’t going out guns firing, trying to earn our own points. And in the end, that’s what it comes down to.”