For the second consecutive weekend, the Harvard men’s volleyball exchanged a Friday night straight-set loss for a Saturday afternoon straight-set win, as the Crimson downed St. Francis, 3-0, Saturday at the Malkin Athetic Center.
Behind strong team service and impressive performances from the middle hitters, Harvard (7-2, 2-2 EIVA) took control early and never looked back, dispatching the Red Flash (6-7, 3-1) in less than an hour.
The result gave Harvard a split of the weekend’s slate of conference games and allowed the squad to keep its spot in the top half of the EIVA standings.
“All the different aspects of our game seemed to be working really well,” sophomore libero Chris Gibbons said. “We had struggled with that in the past and [on Friday] in the Penn State match, but...St. Francis didn’t rise up to match us, and the game was basically ours from the get-go.”
With St. Francis ahead, 2-1, early in the first set, freshman middle hitter Caleb Zimmick notched two successive kills, giving the Crimson a lead it did not give up for the remainder of the match.
Zimmick posted another strong day in his freshman campaign, registering nine kills and nine blocks and dominating the middle of the court.
“Caleb had a really good day in the middle over [the Red Flash middle hitter],” said sophomore outside hitter Nick Madden. “He was able to read him really well.”
And while St. Francis traded points early, a 13-3 Harvard run took the visitors out of contention, as two Red Flash timeouts could not stop the slide. With the set out of sight, Harvard eased its way to taking the first set, eventually doubling up the St. Francis, 25-12.
The Crimson’s defensive execution played a key role in the dominant run.
“Our serve-receive passing was very good,” Madden said. “We were getting a lot of good defensive balls up. We weren’t putting balls 10 feet off the net; we were putting balls pretty close, so we had many options running.”
“It also helped that our middle hitters were hitting well, so that opened it up for the outside,” Madden added.
And Madden and captain outside hitter Matt Jones took advantage, as they combined for four kills during the 13-3 run and seventeen kills on the day.
Harvard again looked strong in the second set, as the team took a 14-9 lead after trading early points with the St. Francis.
A well-timed Red Flash timeout helped temporarily shift the momentum, as St. Francis tied the game at 16 apiece. But the Crimson’s effective hitting and serving gave Harvard control, winning nine of the next 14 points to take the set, 25-21.
To open the third frame, three consecutive Red Flash attack errors and a service ace from Madden gave the Crimson a 4-0 lead. Behind more strong service and defense, the Crimson fought to a 25-16 victory to take the 3-0 sweep.