Tuesday night was business as usual for Harvard (10-5, 7-2 EIVA). An overall clinical performance, headlined by solid offensive play, powered the Crimson to a 3-0, straight-set victory over Marymount (6-12, 3-5 Continental).
“It felt good,” Harvard coach Brian Baise said. “A match like that, a lot just comes down to the mental part of the game and…the guys did a good job.”
The victory extended the Crimson’s home win streak at the Malkin Athletic Center to six games. It began as a very one-sided affair with a score of 6-4 giving way to a swift 16-point advantage, including 14 straight unanswered points from the Crimson. Within minutes of the opening serve, Harvard had won the first set, 25-6, in a whirlwind start.
Senior captain Chris Gibbons said the team saw the match as a chance to display some of the skills it has been working on of late against unfamiliar opponents.
“We didn’t know much about the other team, so we were sort of just focusing on what we were doing on our side of the net,” Gibbons said. “We’ve been working on this stuff in practice, so this is just an opportunity for us to execute that in a match.”
The last two sets were more contested. Absent 14-point runs and easy finishes, the second and third saw slightly better defense from the Saints and a somewhat less aggressive game from the Crimson. At no point, however, did Harvard lose the lead.
The closest Marymount came was a one-point gap in the second, but throughout the match it was the Crimson that was in charge.
“They sort of passed a little better and screened a little bit harder [in the second and third sets],” Gibbons said. “Maybe there were a couple lapses of focus where we gave them a few too many points…but sometimes matches will go by quickly like that, and sometimes the sets are a little slower.”
The final scores of 25-6, 25-14 and 25-17 were indicative of a high quality Harvard performance. The .448 hitting percentage was the highest the Crimson has had in a game in the season so far, and the best since April last year. Individual performances were strong as well, as sophomore outside hitter Alec Schlossman registered a career-high seven kills. Freshman outside hitter Casey White contributed 13 kills of his own, and junior middle blocker Caleb Zimmick added eight.
The defensive end was also solid, as Marymount’s hitting percentage was reduced to -.093. Freshman Bryce Ernsberger and junior Brett Refner each contributed only seven kills for the Saints, though a few of those delayed a Harvard match point in the final set.
“We didn’t play well against George Mason on Friday night, came back against Princeton and we’re pretty sharp again—the ways that we have been for a lot of the season,” Baise said. “Tonight, I thought we had a return to form. We made good decisions, and we kept the ball in play.”
Although Marymount’s 86 kill attempts outnumbered Harvard’s 67, the dramatic difference resulted in 16 more kills for Harvard.
Errors were another area of difference, as Harvard’s count of six was 22 less than that of the Saints’ 28. Defensively, Harvard’s 33 digs were superior to the 22 of Marymount.
“It was a pretty smooth win,” Gibbons said. “We were in control the entire time, but with matches like these, the main thing that we’re looking at is just to have focus throughout the entire match. When you’re up big, it’s easy to lose focus and sort of slack off and go 50 percent. So that was what we were really working on, going 100 percent and working on the stuff we’ve been trying to at practice.”
The team will travel to Ball State and Ohio State this week as it seeks out some stiffer non-conference competition. However, a win as dominant as this will always be music to Baise’s ears. The coach said he took the evening’s encounter as encouraging news as the team moves ahead.
“We saw some different lineups, which was important as we head to the second half of the season,” Baise said. “I was happy to see that we did take care of the business from our side of the net.”