Harvard Men’s Volleyball (9-12, 6-6 EIVA) had a tough weekend at home as it fell against both of its conference opponents. The Crimson came into the weekend tied for second in the EIVA standings, but with the two losses now finds itself outside of the top four in the conference. After losing an emotion filled five-set thriller to Saint Francis (13-14, 8-4 EIVA) on Friday night, the Crimson suffered a devastating loss to the No.12 Penn State Nittany Lions (17-10, 9-3 EIVA) on senior night.
“Composure, experience, and desire to be in those situations. Right now, sometimes I think when we get in these situations we get tight, and at some point with enough experience, we’ll find those situations and the nerves won’t play a role,” coach Brian Baise said. “I think especially now at this point it has happened a number of times and I think we just get tight and stop moving and stop playing with instinct. We start getting tentative.”
PENN STATE 3, HARVARD 0
The nationally ranked Nittany Lions, which has sat atop the conference throne for much of the program’s history, looked prepared to continue that reign as it swept Harvard in three sets. Penn State, coming off a shocking three set loss to Sacred Heart in Connecticut, had not interest in repeating that level of performance in the Malkin Center.
The Crimson, coming off an emotional loss to Saint Francis the night before, was determined not to repeat their mistakes. Despite major momentum shift swings in Harvard’s favor, it still fell short.
The Crimson, tried to fuel its performance with the frustration from the loss the night before, but it would take more than emotion to knock off Penn State, a team that defeated the previously No.1 Ohio State Buckeyes this season.
In the second set Harvard found itself in an all too familiar position, ahead of a nationally ranked team, and an opportunity to extend the lead. Up 14-10, unfortunately for the Crimson, it responded to the advantage as its done many times before this season, it let it slip away.
Penn State’s redshirt freshman Calvin Mende, lead the Nittany Lions with 14 kills, while the other redshirt freshman Luke Braswell served up 35 assists. Harvard junior Riley Moore lead the team with 9 kills, and junior Marko Kostich lead with 20 assists.
SAINT FRANCIS 3, HARVARD 2
In a heartbreaking loss, the Crimson dropped a 2-1 set lead to the Red Flash and saw a hard fought lead slip away. Harvard, which has been plagued by its inability to finish sets, fell victim to its own mistakes as it underperformed in the fourth and fifth sets.
The Crimson had a hitting percentage of -.042 and -.111 in the last two sets of the contest.
“I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed for the guys. They really worked hard and their focus was pretty good, we just couldn’t get the big points we needed,” Baise said. “We let a number of leads slip away, and to win at this point in the season against teams at this level we’ve got to capitalize.”
In the fifth set, leading 10-6, Harvard looked poised to complete the match and earn another conference win at home. However, as the set rolled on the momentum shifted back to the Red Flash which took advantage of the Crimson’s mistakes, winning the match 15-13.
Harvard, lead by co-captain Casey White and freshman Erik Johnsson, who collected 13 and 11 kills, respectively, was unable to overcome early blunders to earn the critical victory.
“It’s tough in a really close game like that to find one specific thing, especially in 5 sets we were kind of wavering, but just trying not to get down, especially not in the fourth set,” Moore said. “Once we got down big we kind of just let it fall away. We need to stay focused and be a little bit more resilient if we’re down, kind of get our rhythm back would have helped us a lot in that fifth set.”
As it currently stands, Harvard must beat both the Princeton Tigers and the NJIT Highlanders if it wants a shot at making it to the EIVA tournament. Two challenging road wins are what stands between the Crimson and a postseason campaign.
Despite its shortcomings this season Harvard has shown this season it is has the tools necessary to win when it matters most.
—Staff writer Stuart Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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