Following a 3-0 sweep at the Stevens Institute of Technology on Friday night, the Harvard men’s volleyball repeated a dominant performance and blanked New York University, 3-0, on Saturday at the Jerome S. Coles Center. The two teams had last met in 2011, when the Crimson fell in five sets, not one of which was decided by more than five points.
Harvard (2-0) was propelled against the Violets (0-1) by a group effort that saw all but three members of the team receive playing time.
“These pre-league matches are important in that way,” Crimson coach Brian Baise said. “It’s a long season. A lot of different guys are going to play a role this year.”
While Harvard may have been aggressive on defense, stifling NYU to a -.047 hitting percentage as a team and out-blocking its opponents 12 to seven, the first set saw the Crimson squad give up 14 points on unforced errors, eight off serves, and six off kills.
“We worked on our serving a lot,” Baise said. “We know it’s an important part of our game and it’s always going to be a struggle... You can see a difference from the first to the second game. The second game we were really in control.”
Junior co-captain Nick Madden led the scoring effort for Harvard. The opposite hitter dished out a game-high 13 kills and the sole service ace for the team. Madden also dove for two digs and provided a pair of blocks.
Madden was followed by sophomore DJ White, who topped all scorers against the Ducks and had nine kills over the match. White was closely trailed by freshman outside hitter Branden Clemens and sophomore middle blocker Caleb Zimmick, who had six kills apiece. Zimmick snatched a game-high four blocks and Clemens, playing in his second-ever collegiate contest, had three.
“It feels great because it feels like all the work that I put in during high school has finally started to pay off,” Clemens said. “It feels great to be part of another team and it feels great to be playing.”
Clemens, who started two of the first three sets, has been the only freshman to start thus far this season.
The first set saw the Crimson hold a slim lead until a 10-3 run gave the team a six-point advantage, 21-15. Despite various errors over the next several plays, a pair of kills by Madden and an attack by Clemens, all assisted by co-captain Rob Lothman, brought Harvard to game point. A botched kill by Violets freshman Keith Waddell gave the Crimson the first frame, 25-21. Waddell, an outside hitter, led his team in scoring for the day, with six kills but eight errors.
Harvard jumped to an early lead in the second stanza off six NYU errors and a Clemens kill, 7-0. It was too late for the Violets, who had just six successful attacks throughout the set, and they were unable to contain the Crimson, who rolled over its opponents to take the second set, 25-13.
“I felt it went a lot better,” Clemens said. “We started making a lot less errors, especially serving errors. I feel like our overall team defense and blocking went a lot better.”
A final set saw a rallying effort by the NYU squad. The two teams hovered within one to two points of each other until the end of the game. A service error by White gave the Violets a point that tied the contest, 22-22. Harvard responded with a Madden kill and NYU once again set itself behind with an attack error by junior outside hitter Parker Kolodka. In a swift match point, White drilled a kill with help from senior setter Derek Jansma. Jansma set the entire third frame, handing out 13 assists. Lothman started the first two sets and finished with the match with a game-high 20 assists.
“We knew they were going to come out,” Baise said. “Third set is usually the toughest because the other team is fighting to save the match. I’m glad we got it. Now that I know we won I’m glad we got a little pressure on our guys. It was 22-all. It’s always interesting to see how we respond and we were able to get those last few points.”
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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