At the end of last week, the Harvard men’s volleyball team (6-10, 3-4 EIVA) flew to California with high hopes for competition with top West Coast programs.
The Crimson did play three matches but failed to produce a victory in either one. Facing No. 7 UCLA (13-7), No. 14 USC (9-12), and No. 15 UC Santa Barbara (10-11), Harvard ended its long trip with three defeats to volleyball powerhouses.
The losses came in different ways—a three-set sweep, a vacated 2-0 lead, and a five-set seesaw match. The overall moral remained the same, though: The Crimson can compete with top programs but struggles to seal the deal.
No. 14 USC 3, HARVARD 2
In the Crimson’s last game in California before returning home, the team was determined to finish the trip on a high note. After dropping a two-set lead in Santa Barbara, Calif., Harvard went into Galen Center with a newfound focus to finish out each set and not give up big leads.
However, early inspiration proved insufficient. A tough back-and-forth match between the Crimson and the Trojans ended with the hosts emerging victorious thanks to a 15-8 fifth set. So it was that Harvard flew back to Cambridge without a victory.
Co-captain Casey White led the Crimson with 12 kills on the contest. Meanwhile USC relied on sophomore outside hitter Gianluca Grasso, who posted 18 kills on a .300 hitting efficiency.
Although the Trojans took the first set by a score of 25-16, Harvard stormed back in the second with a 25-19 win. The back-and-forth battled continued into the next two frames, as the two teams again traded sets, with USC winning 25-18 and the Crimson triumphing 25-22.
The hot-and-cold nature of the match reflected attacking inconsistency for Harvard. In the five sets, the Crimson posted hitting percentages of .192, .423, .160, .306, and -.267—in other words a back-and-forth affair.
No. 15 UCSB 3, HARVARD 2
Shaking off a blowout loss in Los Angeles to start the trip, Harvard started hot against the Gauchos, claiming two sets. However, the Crimson was unable to seal the victory, conceding the next three frames.
Once again, White topped the Crimson with a career-high 19 kills. He did so on a hitting efficiency of .246. Junior Hayden Boehle and freshman Roy McFarland led the way for Santa Barbara, combining for 26 finishes.
Looking at the contest as a whole, the two teams played to similar statistics. While Harvard posted a slightly higher killing percentage, the Guachos were only .030 behind with a mark of .243.
In the last set of the match, Harvard held a 14-12 advantage and the chance to put away the match. However, Santa Barbara battled back to force a two-point run off. Ultimately the Gauchos crushed Crimson hopes with a 4-1 run that sealed the result.
No. 7 UCLA 3, HARVARD 0
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