With two match points in the fourth set, it seemed as if the Harvard women’s volleyball team (2-9, 0-1 Ivy) was poised to turn its season around by winning its Ivy League opener. But two Dartmouth kills forced a fifth set, and the Big Green prevailed, 25-22, 20-25, 22-25, 28-26, 15-10, in Hanover on Friday night.
In each of the first four sets, the Crimson got off to quick starts but was only able to hold on to win the second and third. In the deciding fifth set, Dartmouth (2-8, 1-0 Ivy) took an 11-6 lead off of a kill, and Harvard could not recover and ultimately fell, 15-10.
“It was definitely ours to win,” said freshman outside hitter Kathleen Wallace, “but sometimes things just don’t work out your way.”
After a service ace by freshman setter Hannah Schmidt gave the Crimson a four point lead in the first set, the Big Green called a timeout and immediately went on a 3-0 run off of three straight kills. The remainder of the set was neck-and-neck, with Dartmouth ultimately taking the frame, 25-22.
In the second set, a Big Green service error gave Harvard its largest lead of the set, 10-5. Despite the strong start, Dartmouth fought back to cut the Crimson lead to one, 21-20, before Harvard got four straight kills to close out the set, 25-20.
In the third, the Crimson started hot and took a 13-8 lead off of a kill by captain outside hitter Taylor Docter. But a kill by Dartmouth outside hitter Alex Schoenberger sparked an 11-4 run that gave the Big Green a two-point lead. Docter answered with three straight spikes, and junior Erin Cooney clinched the set with a kill.
One set away from taking its second match of the season, Harvard got off to another quick start, leading Dartmouth early, 10-5. The Big Green fought back the rest of the set to tie the score, 23-23. Docter responded with a kill to give the Crimson match point, but Schoenberger answered with a kill to even it up. The Crimson had yet another chance after winning the next point, but this time a kill by junior middle blocker Elisa Scudder tied the score again. That was Harvard’s last match point, and Dartmouth closed out the frame with an ace.
After winning the first point in the deciding set, the Crimson never had the lead again and ultimately fell, 15-10.
“I don’t think that we have any big strategic changes to make,” said sophomore outside hitter Kristen Casey. “I don’t think that anything specifically went wrong necessarily…. We really just need to be able to close when we have the opportunity.”
Despite droppings its sixth straight game, the Crimson seems to be playing better than its record indicates.
“We’ve been losing a lot, but [Friday] night…we were proud of how we played,” Casey said. “We were playing well, and we were playing hard, and we left with a sense of pride in the fact that we played really hard the whole time. But there’s disappointment that we did in fact play well and work really hard and it just didn’t go in our way.”
Going forward, the team hopes to use this disappointment to its advantage.
“I think it’s frustrating, but we’re moving on, and we’re excited because we know we can definitely take on Dartmouth when they come back to Harvard,” Wallace said. “I think it will also give us a good motivation factor going into the rest of the Ivy League.”
Against the Big Green, Docter finished with a double-double, notching 24 kills and 15 digs. Casey led the team with 20 digs, while senior setter Beth Kinsella had 27 assists on the match.
“It’s been a tough preseason for us, and we’re sort of waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel here because we’re working hard, we’re pushing through,” Casey said. “We’re disappointed obviously, but, if anything, we’re just more excited to get back out there against Dartmouth and against other teams.”
—Staff writer Denny Purcell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.