This weekend, the Harvard men’s volleyball team (5-6, 3-3 EIVA) continued an up-and-down season with a devastating loss followed by a decisive win. The defeat came against Princeton (6-7, 4-2 EIVA) on Friday night, while the victory came the next day against NJIT (7-7, 3-3 EIVA).
“To come back from a really tough loss on Friday against one of our biggest rivals and play the way we did Saturday is a huge confidence boost,” Baise said. “[The weekend] tells us that we can play at that high level.”
HARVARD 3, NJIT 0
On Saturday night, the Crimson hosted NJIT for both teams’ sixth conference match of the season. Despite a five-set loss the night before, Harvard walked into the gym with perceptible energy.
The final result reflected that initial exuberance, as the Crimson powered to a 3-0 win.
In the third set, the Highlanders took a 14-13 scoreline, broaching the possibility of a comeback. But Harvard proceeded to open a gap and claim a 25-18 win.
“We’ve had a lot of close sets and haven’t won as many as we’d like we,” coach Brian Baise said. “We’ve been better these last two weekends. We changed, the weekend before last, the offense and lineup. The guys are playing with more confidence.”
The first set was a tense match of will and skill as NJIT and Harvard were neck and neck throughout the 25-point frame. Freshman outside hitter Erik Johnsson stood out in the set with five total kills.
The Crimson initially rushed to a 6-3 lead in the first, but the Highlanders fought to a two-point margin until captain and outside hitter Casey White led the hosts to a 15-9 lead.
The second set also looked promising for NJIT as the visitors started the set with a lead. In this case, though, Harvard roared back for a 16-16 deadlock.
Despite Crimson errors that furthered the Highlanders’ lead, sophomore middle blocker Trevor Dow brought Harvard back to a 21-20 deficit with two kills. Then, after taking advantage of NJIT errors, Harvard rebounded and won the tense set, 25-23, after a White kill.
“I think the key for those [pressurized’ points is staying focused on each point one at a time and not thinking too much about winning the set or the match,” said captain and libero Samuel Murphy. “We definitely play our best when we're focused in the moment, playing with energy and confidence.”
PRINCETON 3, HARVARD 2
After hours of depressing and then uplifting play for Harvard, the fifth set opened with hope.
In the third and fourth set, the Crimson had claimed must-win points to force a final tiebreak. Now confidence and energy ran high as the team prepared for the do-or-die game.