The last time the Harvard women’s volleyball team faced off against UMass Lowell, not a single member of Wednesday’s team had even been born. But just like the last time the Crimson played the River Hawks, Harvard emerged dominant.
On Wednesday night in the Malkin Athletic Center, Harvard (4-2) polished off UMass Lowell (0-8) in its quickest victory yet. The Crimson vanquished their opponents in a trio of straight sets that saw at least a nine-point margin of victory in each frame, 25-16 in the first and 25-13 in the second and third sets. Harvard led the River Hawks for nearly the whole match, trailing for just one point at the start of the second frame.
“I think the overall chemistry and keeping our composure on court is always important,” said Harvard head coach Jennifer Weiss. “I think our ball control was solid, and we were serving aggressively. That was one of our focuses, to really serve hard today, and we stayed with that game plan.”
The Crimson served an impressive 13 total aces over three sets. The team has not seen double-digits in service aces while any of the current members of the team have been at Harvard.
Already off to a powerful start this season, freshman Corinne Bain had her fourth game nearly netting a triple-double. The setter notched 16 assists, nine digs, and seven service aces. Bain also drilled five kills on 11 total attacks.
“I always stick to the same serving method that I have,” Bain said. “I’ve had it for a while, and it’s kind of based on how the other team responds to it. I try to keep what I can control on my side.”
Bain, who assumed a starting role in the contest, was not the only freshman to receive significant playing time. Outside hitter Grace Weghorst and middle blocker Jane Labanowski also took to the court, playing in the second and third sets. Labanowski struck three kills on six attacks while Weghorst hit six kills on nine attacks.
“Since day one of preseason, the goal has been to get them integrated in the group,” Weiss said. “As a group, they’ve been fabulous. They fit right in, they’re easy to get along with, and they fit right into our system.”
Veterans also contributed to the Harvard sweep. Co-captain Natalie Doyle, starting at libero, played all three sets and dove for 14 digs against a mostly weak River Hawks attack unit.
UMass Lowell, which has yet to win a game this season, struggled to find an offensive rhythm against Harvard. Sophomore middle hitter Anisa Smith led at the net with a team-high six kills, as the team stumbled with just 19 total kills and a hitting percentage of .067.
The River Hawks recorded 14 attack errors, causing three players to have hitting percentages below zero. As a contrast, the Crimson tallied 39 kills over the three sets, an overall hitting percentage of .351, and four players recorded a hitting percentage at or above .500.
“Right from the start, we had a fast offense,” Bain said. “That really helps us do well in these games, and I think we’ll continue to develop it and make it something that will hopefully win us the Ivy title.”
Sophomore middle blocker Caroline Holte brought the fire at the net for Harvard, with a game-high eight kills. Holte was trailed by junior co-captain Kristen Casey and her seven kills. Casey has made the return this season to a hitting position after spending her sophomore season as libero.
While the Crimson currently ranks in the top 25 in the NCAA for blocks per set, at 2.77 per stanza, a lack of pressure at the attack from their opponent yielded just one team block through the entire hour of play.
The win leaves the Harvard squad with just three more non-conference meetings before the start of the Ancient Eight season on September 27 against Dartmouth.
“I’m super excited to get into Ivy play because I think that’s some really good competition for us that’s at our same level, and it’ll be great to see how we respond to that,” Bain said.
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CrimsonCordelia.