After an attack error gave MIT the first game of the match, things did not appear to be going the right way for the Harvard men’s volleyball team.
But the Crimson (4-0) fought off early errors and a hostile Engineer (5-2) crowd, as Harvard downed its upstream rival, 3-1, at MIT’s DuPont Athletic Center Saturday night.
With the stands packed full of MIT supporters, captain Matt Jones, who received the brunt of the abuse, knew how to deal with the jeers and taunts.
“I just laugh and ignore them,” Jones said. “Maybe when I was younger it would be a little different, but being a senior, you’ve heard everything. They weren’t very creative.”
And though Jones would open the game with a kill that momentarily silenced the crowd, it seemed like the raucous home support was serving as an eighth man on the court, as service and attack errors plagued the early showing from the visiting Harvard squad. After MIT went on a 5-0 run, Crimson coach Brian Baise called a timeout to settle his team down.
“We know we have to focus entirely on our side of the court,” Baise said. “We don’t worry about what the other team is doing, let alone the fans. This is a big rivalry match, and we knew the fans were going to come out. The best way to deal with that is to stay in the lead.”
Harvard came out of the timeout strongly, tying the game up at 10 through strong offensive play from Crimson freshmen DJ White and Caleb Zimmick.
But another MIT run took the game out of Harvard’s hands, as the Engineers took the first game, 25-15.
“It was a shaky start,” Baise said. “We came out pretty cold, and they came out pretty hot.”
The tide began to turn in the second game, as the two teams traded points to begin.
Sophomore Nick Madden led the way in the game, notching six kills as the Crimson extended its lead to four, forcing MIT to call a timeout.
But the Engineers could not stop Harvard’s growing momentum, and both MIT’s bench and crowd quieted down as the Crimson took the second game, 25-19.
As more and more fans entered the back bleachers going into the third game, Madden and Jones tightened their grip on the flow of the game, combining for 11 kills in the frame.
“We knew our game plan would work if we just executed,” Baise said. “Our outside hitters had a great game for us, and we had a little bit of height advantage that helped a lot.”
The pair’s offensive effort was buoyed by strong defensive play from libero Chris Gibbons. The sophomore posted 10 digs on the night, keeping several long rallies alive for Harvard to put away.