After losing to first-place Yale in straight sets at home the last time out, the Harvard women’s volleyball team has a chance to gain some momentum in the mid-season stretch as it takes on two Ivy foes coming off back-to-back losses last weekend.
On Friday night the Crimson (5-11, 2-3 Ivy) will travel to Ithaca to take on Cornell (5-11, 1-4 Ivy) before matching up against Columbia (7-7, 2-3 Ivy) Saturday evening.
This weekend’s matchups will be key for the Crimson as it hopes to distance itself from the Lions, which sit tied for fourth with Harvard in the Ivy standings midway through conference play. The Big Red trails both teams by one game, currently tied for sixth with Brown and Dartmouth.
“Right now we are sitting in the middle of the pack,” Harvard coach Jen Weiss said. “The road trips to Cornell and Columbia are pretty important in the mid-season.”
The Crimson got off to a rough start out of the gates this season, going 2-8 against non-conference opponents before picking up Ivy League action in late September. Since then, Harvard has gone 3-3.
“In the beginning [of conference play], we lost a couple of close ones,” Weiss said. “I feel like [overall] we are doing a nice job with our opponents.”
But the Crimson hopes to capitalize on its better play of late in its two critical matchups this weekend.
“I think it is going to be a good weekend for us,” said sophomore middle blocker Caroline Walters. “I think as long as we play consistently and play to the best of our ability then we will definitely be successful.”
Harvard has been hard at work this week preparing for its two matchups against teams known for their defensive prowess. According to Weiss, the Crimson has spent the past week addressing its offensive preparation and execution.
“We are focusing on our rotations and what we are doing offensively so we can continue to execute our game plan,” Weiss said. “Serving them both deep and out of system will be very important.”
Leading the offensive charge for the Crimson will be captain Taylor Docter. The outside hitter has recorded a team-high 173 kills thus far this season.
Closely behind has been the firepower of freshman outsider hitter Kathleen Wallace, who has boasted an average of 2.68 kills per set.
On the defensive end, the Crimson will look to maintain its strong presence at the net. Harvard ranks third in the Ivy League with a total of 197.5 blocks this season. Freshman middle blocker Caroline Holt’s 57 blocks paces Harvard.
Up first for the Crimson on Friday night will be the Big Red, which is coming off back-to-back road losses at Penn and Princeton.
Freshman right side and outside hitter Breanna Wong has come up big for Cornell in her first season, leading the Big Red with an average of 2.89 kills per set in addition to 35 blocks.