Coming off a six-game losing streak and two consecutive five-set losses, the Harvard women’s volleyball team looked to get back on track in its final nonconference showdown of the season.
The Crimson (3-9, 0-1 Ivy) achieved that goal at home Tuesday night, putting together a solid team performance and defeating Holy Cross (0-16, 0-2 Patriot) in four sets, 25-17, 25-11, 15-25, 25-19.
“I’m really proud of us for pulling out a win tonight,” senior setter Beth Kinsella said. “We really took control from point one. Losing game three was upsetting, obviously, but I’m really proud of us for mentally maintaining our focus and not letting that loss rattle us.”
In its last two losses at New Hampshire and Dartmouth, the Crimson was unable to win big points late in matches. But even though Holy Cross dominated the third set and appeared to have the momentum on Tuesday, Harvard began the fourth set strong and eventually outlasted the Crusaders.
“Knowing that we can push back when a team is pushing at us is something you can’t really learn in practice,” Kinsella said. “When it comes down to it, it’s about maintaining that composure and confidence, and I think that tonight was really good practice for that.”
Kinsella led the Crimson with 26 assists, while captain Taylor Docter finished with a season-high 20 digs. Harvard passed well all night, notching 67 digs to the Crusaders’ 57. Docter also led the Crimson with 13 kills, while sophomore Erin Cooney and freshman Kathleen Wallace added 11 apiece.
“Anytime I’m setting, I have three huge weapons in the front row, and I also have back-row attack,” Kinsella said. “When the passing is on, which it was tonight, I was able to switch it up and the hitters all delivered.”
The beginning of the match was fairly even, with neither team able to piece together a significant string of points. Although the Crusaders came up with a number of digs to keep rallies going, the Crimson took advantage of great blocking to amass a 20-14 lead, from which it never looked back en route to winning the set by eight points.
Harvard built on the momentum established in the first set and took control of the second game early on.
A series of kills from Docter along with great touches from her teammates allowed the Crimson to build a 14-point lead, the margin by which it ultimately won the set.
Midway through the set, freshman setter Hannah Schmidt produced a highlight when she went careening into the scorer’s table to keep a ball alive and continue a point, which Harvard eventually won. The Crimson closed the set on a 10-2 run.
“I think we dominated sets one and two,” coach Jennifer Weiss said. “I think everybody stepped it up; our team played well.”
Although the Crimson easily took the first two sets, Holy Cross refused to back down and came out ready to compete in the third set. A number of Harvard errors allowed the Crusaders to rack up points and win the set by 10.
“Volleyball is such a game of momentum, so each set is really different and could end really differently,” Weiss said. “Holy Cross’ defense was scrappy. They were digging a lot, and they really picked it up there toward the end.”
After dropping the third set, the Crimson bounced right back at the beginning of the fourth to gain a 6-1 lead. Although the Crusaders fought back to eventually tie it at 15, Harvard put together several clean points to establish a lead that it did not surrender.
A thrilling final point sealed the victory for the Crimson, as Wallace threw down a big spike after a flurry of blocks and digs from both sides of the net.
The rest of the Crimson’s schedule is made up entirely of Ivy League games. Harvard has two big conference matchups later this week, as Princeton and Penn both come to town.
“We want to play tougher out-of-conference competition so we can be better for Ivies,” Weiss said. “We got better, we fought through, so we’re excited for Ivies. I look forward to it.”