The Harvard men’s volleyball team (4-5, 2-2 EIVA) finished this weekend’s road trip to Pennsylvania with split results, winning in a close match at St. Francis (6-9, 3-3) following a shutout loss to No. 13 Penn St. (9-5, 4-1) the night before.
HARVARD 3, ST. FRANCIS 2
The Crimson looked to bounce back from Friday night’s loss as the team faced St. Francis in what proved to be another close game. Deadlocked at two sets apiece, the two teams were forced to compete in a fifth set to break the tie, which Harvard took, 17-15, to claim victory.
“We started a little bit slow, especially at the beginning of the first couple sets,” said junior middle blocker Riley Moore. “That’s been kind of an issue for us so far this season—finishing out matches.”
The Crimson rallied behind the performance of freshman setter Matthew Ctvrtlik. The California-native recorded 13 kills and 21 digs in Saturday’s win.
“Matt really played well. He had an all-around game,” senior co-captain Casey White said. “He dug balls and put some away, which was a little bit of a different situation than we’ve ever put him in, but really pulled through for us.”
With 11 kills and 11 digs, White posted his fifth double-double of the season.
Harvard fell by two points to St. Francis in the first set, 25-23, before answering with a 25-16 second set to even the score. The two teams then repeated the scores of the first two frames, with the Red Flash taking the third set 25-23 and the Crimson responding with a score of 25-16 in the fourth. Thus the stage was set for the teams to battle for it all in one final frame.
Under the pressure of facing a fifth set on the road, Harvard sought to maintain an element of composure in their play.
“We were trying to stay focused and make sure that everyone was doing their part, especially with a kind of hostile crowd in a really tight match,” Moore said.
Focused the Crimson indeed stayed, as the team closed the decisive fifth set with a .353 hitting percentage. Harvard was able to cap the weekend with a hard-fought 3-2 win over St. Francis.
“We are glad we were able to come out with a win this weekend after facing adversity due to injuries,” junior settler Marko Kostich said. “It was the first away in-conference weekend, and we knew it was important to earn wins early on in a competitive EIVA.”
NO. 13 PENN STATE 3, HARVARD 0
Despite holding multiple leads in three tightly-played sets, the Crimson was unable to leave Penn State’s Rec Hall with a win Friday night.
“We blew a couple of pretty sizable leads, which was definitely a bummer,” said Moore, who lead the team with three blocks on the evening.
The Nittany Lions opened their 3-0 run with a 25-17 win in the first set, holding Harvard to a .121 attack percentage.
Going into the second frame, both teams went point-for-point before the Crimson pulled to a three-point lead, going up 10-7. That lead was then extended to four, as Harvard went ahead 12-8. However, Penn State proved resilient, as they battled back to tie the set at 19 and again at 33 for the set point. Behind the efforts of Penn State senior Matt Callaway and junior Aidan Albrecht, the Lions took the long set 35-33 following a kill apiece from the pair.
The Crimson looked to bounce back early in the third set with back-to-back kills from junior Brad Gretsch. A strong .310 attack from Penn State overwhelmed Harvard, which struggled with what Moore referred to as “giving up easy points.” The Nittany Lions took the final set 25-22 to cap off a clean sweep.
“We have a lot of youth on the team, so you expect some variance in how you’re going to play, which we saw,” White said. “We played very well at the beginning of the match, but when it got down to crunch time we kind of folded a little bit.”
White led the Crimson with 12 kills in the contest against the Lions.