The No. 15 Harvard men’s volleyball team will go into the EIVA playoffs in two weeks riding the momentum of a win, but the team’s final weekend of the regular season was far from its best, as the Crimson split its New Jersey roadtrip to NJIT and Rutgers-Newark.
Coming off of its first American Volleyball Coaches Association ranking in program history, Harvard dropped its first matchup on Friday night, 3-1, against the Highlanders, whose serving and hitting proved stronger than the Crimson’s.
But the squad recovered on Saturday night, taking down the Scarlet Raiders, 3-1, behind a strong defensive performance.
With a week and a half of preparation before the EIVA semifinals, junior setter Rob Lothman believes the team can work in some of the lessons from the weekend in its preparation.
“We can practice picking each other up and making sure everyone is focused for every point,” the junior said. “And I think that will make a big difference moving forward.”
HARVARD 3, RUTGERS-NEWARK 1
Coming off its disappointing loss the night before, Harvard (18-5, 10-4 EIVA) came into Newark on Saturday knowing it was the heavy favorite but remembering the lessons from the night before.
“Coach [Brian Baise] did a good job of reminding us that sometimes [losses] like [Friday] happen, but what we have to do is control what we can control,” co-captain Matt Jones said.
And behind a kill from Jones, who finished with a team-high 18 kills on the day, and two attack errors by Rutgers-Newark (10-14, 2-11 EIVA), the Crimson earned the quick 3-0 lead in the first set.
Jones provided five of his team-high 18 kills during the first game.
Ahead by one at 20-19, the Crimson committed three consecutive attack errors to give Rutgers-Newark a key two-point cushion late in the match.
Outside hitters Nick Madden and DJ White were able to level the score at 22, and the teams traded until 25, when two attack errors from the Scarlet Raiders gave Harvard a 27-25 first set victory.
Rutgers-Newark fought back in the second set, and a four-point run gave the Scarlet Raiders as 9-5 lead early on.
But the Crimson answered back with runs of its own, and soon the visitors found themselves in the driving seat once again. Riding a .500 hitting percentage in the game and more errors from Rutgers-Newark, Harvard eased to a 25-19 win, taking a 2-0 advantage in the match.
Errors plagued the Scarlet Raiders throughout. The team managed a hitting percentage under .090 for three games during the match. The Crimson blocking was also up to the task, as Jones and sophomore middle hitter Michael Owen each registered 10 blocks apiece for the match.