Men's Volleyball Splits Weekend Series

Casey at the Net
Co-captain Casey White, who ended the game with seven kills alongside six assists, completed a rally in set three with two kills.
This weekend’s doubleheader for the Harvard men’s volleyball team (3-4, 1-1 EIVA) concluded with mixed results. The same weekend that saw the Crimson squeeze by No. 15 George Mason (5-5, 2-1) in an exciting comeback on Saturday night also saw Harvard fall to the same Patriots team in straight sets on Sunday afternoon.

NO. 15 GEORGE MASON 3, HARVARD 0

The Crimson’s enthusiastic three-set comeback victory did not carry over to Sunday afternoon’s performance, as the Patriots defeated Harvard in three frames to break even on the weekend series.

Going into the match, the Crimson pushed to maintain a high energy level and stay patient on defense.

“You never know if they are going to keep coming with the same strategy,” Coach Baise said.“We will try to slow them down and get their hitting percentage down.”

Harvard was unable to fulfill Baise’s points of emphasis Sunday, as the team allowed 43 kills from the Patriots and an average hitting percentage of .380, compared to the Crimson’s 28 kills and .189 hitting percentage. Defensively, Harvard was a step behind as well, finishing with seven fewer digs than George Mason had over three sets.

A hard-fought loss in the first set by the Crimson was followed by a disappointing 25-18 defeat in the second set, and Harvard eventually ran out of gas, unable to muster up the strength to repeat Saturday night’s comeback. The .103 hitting percentage in the second set was the lowest from both teams on the night and Harvard’s lowest in the past six sets.

“I think going forward in this year, we have to play with a lot of energy,” sophomore blocker Spencer Scott said. “That was really key for us in the performance.”

A 6-1 run in the middle of the second set by the Patriots drained the Crimson of any energy it carried from the previous night, as Harvard was incapable of stopping George Mason’s aggressive attacking duo of Jack Wilson and Radoslav Popov, who finished with 16 and 14 kills, respectively.

With a .500 record in conference play, the Crimson will look to improve from the weekend’s performance as it heads to Pennsylvania to take on highly ranked Penn State and St. Francis.

HARVARD 3, NO. 15 GEORGE MASON 2

Harvard kicked off the start of EIVA play with a resounding victory over George Mason at the Malkin Athletic Center Saturday after falling behind 0-2.

“As the game progressed, we made some adjustments as far as how we were playing defensively and how we were running our offense,” co-captain Samuel Murphy said. “We brought some more energy...which made all the difference.”

With the Patriots ready to finish the match in the third set, the Crimson buckled down and grinded out a 25-22 win. Co-captain Casey White, who ended the game with seven kills alongside six assists, completed the rally in set three with two kills.

“The first two sets were pretty one-sided,” Baise said. “We weren’t playing well; we were out of sync, and our communication wasn’t great.”

Starting off neck-and-neck in the first set, Harvard fell apart after a 16-16 score, allowing six unanswered points and settling for a 25-18 final set score. The second set mirrored a similar pattern, as the Crimson fought to an 18-18 tie only to allow George Mason to go on a 7-3 run to conclude the set.

As Harvard gained momentum through the third set, it was clear that the game was shifting in the Crimson’s favor. Hitting only .074 in the first set and .286 in the second set, Harvard finished the fourth set with a dominating .417 hitting percentage, banking off a game-high thirteen kills.

The team fed off the raucous energy of the home crowd Saturday night, helping to propel the Crimson to a 3-2 victory.

“Crowd size was at the max. It was fun getting some extra people out,” Murphy said. “When the crowd’s getting loud, that definitely gets the guys on the court going.”

Harvard finished the hard-fought comeback with a 15-10 fifth set victory, hitting .290 overall to close out a high-ranked opponent in George Mason. Baise applauded the resilience of the team and noted in particular the strong performances by junior setter Marko Kostich, freshman hitter Erik Johnsson, and White.

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