Only a year after finishing in the bottom half of the Ivy League, the Harvard women’s volleyball team (14-9, 9-5 Ivy) climbed the Ancient Eight rankings in its 2013 campaign, claiming second place in conference play.
“It was really nice to come in and do better than we have the past few seasons,” said freshman outside hitterGrace Weghorst.
The highlight of the team’s season was its home match against archrival Yale. Four weeks after losing handedly to the Bulldogs in straight sets, the Crimson found itself one point away from returning the favor.
After having dropped the third and fourth sets, Harvard managed to go up, 14-9, in the fifth and final set. Freshman Corinne Bain served for the win, capping off the Crimson’s 3-2 victory. In the ensuing aftermath, players—and even coach Jennifer Weiss—were in tears elated after the Crimson handed Yale its first conference loss in over two years.
“What really did it was that everyone did their jobs,” said co-captain Natalie Doyle after the game. “We didn’t try to do anything fancy. Everyone kept it simple, we played our system, and we played the best volleyball we’ve ever played.”
With two games left in the season and first place in the conference out of reach, Harvard found itself tied with Penn.
Both teams had lost the previous evening, and after Yale took down the Quakers, the Crimson did not let an opportunity to get ahead go to waste again, and the squad stormed into Ithaca and took down last-place Cornell in straight sets to sit alone in second.
Bain had a standout year for Harvard. The first-year phenom won Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors by a unanimous vote for a campaign in which she set the Crimson record for aces in a single season with 565. She also ranked third for Harvard in digs and kills, with 236 and 186, respectively, while leading the team in points on the season with 260.5.
Bain was not the only freshman to make a statement, as Weghorst was voted first team All-Ivy, finishing fourth on the Crimson in digs with 156 and second in kills with 189, including 21 in the statement win over the Bulldogs.
“The new freshman class came in and immediately clicked with the team,” Weghorst said. “We were able to come in and make an impact.”
Sophomore Kathleen Wallace and junior Caroline Walters rounded up Harvard’s postseason awards on the year. Wallace was the third Crimson player to be selected first team All-Ivy,and led the team with 217 kills on the season. Walters, who ranked fourth in kills for the Crimson with 172 on the year and fourth in the conference with 1.02 blocks per game, was recognized for her efforts by nabbing second team All-Ivy honors.
Despite finishing the season 4-6 on the road, the Crimson was able to notch two crucial road wins back-to-back on its annual trip to Penn and Princeton. Using the momentum from the previous weekend when the team had swept Cornell and Columbia at home, the Crimson easily defeated the Quakers in Philadelphia, 3-1, and routed the Tigers in straight sets, 3-0.
Penn and Princeton finished tied for third, only one game behind the Crimson.
The team also managed to post a winning record in nonconference games, a slate that included three games in California—marking its first trip to the West Coast since 2006. The team was undefeated in nonconference play at home and posted a 3-1 record against fellow Massachusetts-based schools, its lone loss coming at the hands of Northeastern.
The team will go forward without its three seniors: Erin Cooney, Doyle, and Teresa Skelly.
“This senior class was absolutely awesome,” Weghorst said. “They led our team. They were not only supportive on the court, but in everything that we did…. They really pulled together our entire team. We have some big shoes to fill, but I think our rising seniors can do it.”
—Staff writer Kurt T. Bullard can be reached at email@example.com.