MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR, RUNNER-UP: Matt Jones
The Harvard men’s volleyball team may have finished the season ranked 15th in the country, but some of the squad’s standout players put up numbers that ranked even higher in the individual standings.
One of those was senior Matt Jones, who posted averages of 3.83 kills and .42 aces per set, both ninth in the nation in their respective categories.
The senior has been a fixture for the Crimson at outside hitter for the past four years, seeing significant time on the court since his freshman year in which he appeared in 74 of the team’s 75 total sets. By Jones’ junior year, he was leading the team in kills (3.95) and points per game (4.8) while serving as co-captain, a role he shared with fellow senior Dan Schreff for two years.
As a captain, Jones was an important figure on the court as well as a mentor off of it.
“I can’t say enough about Matt. I look up to him a lot, both as a friend and as a leader,” sophomore opposite hitter Nick Madden says. “He’s very good at demanding respect without asking for it. He has a presence like that.”
Madden’s sentiments were echoed by Harvard coach Brian Baise, who had nothing but praise for Jones.
“He was—at the top of any player I’ve coached—as serious about doing everything he could to make this team as competitive as it could be,” Baise says. “He never took a shortcut. He worked every practice, every lift, every match.”
The hard work paid off throughout the season, as Jones provided a spark for the Crimson offense, including on Senior Night, when Harvard faced off against EIVA-rival NJIT. Jones buried a team-high 14 kills to lead the Crimson to a 3-0 win over the Highlanders, putting his team in good position going into the season-ending conference tournament.
And although Harvard fell short of its championship aspirations in the conference semifinals, Jones’ teammates and coach still recognized the senior’s impact.
“He loves to play this game and think about this game and work at this game as much as any player I’ve ever coached…. We wouldn’t have had this season without Matt,” Baise says.
With the program on the rise, next year will prove crucial, as the Crimson will be forced to look to its strong group of underclassmen to fill the big shoes Jones has left behind.
—Staff writer Madeleine Smith can be reached at email@example.com.