After tallying three tough losses to open the season, the Harvard women’s volleyball team will battle for its first win of the year this weekend as it takes on three Midwest schools.
The Crimson (0-3) will travel to Dayton, Ohio as an invitee to the Holiday Inn Invitational, its first ever appearance at the Wright State University-hosted tournament.
“Our goals heading forward are to play as well as we can together and as a unit,” co-captain Christina Cornelius said, “I love to lead by example and in any situation or time of need I want to be there for my teammates.”
The first few games of the season have been an adjustment period for Harvard, as the team seeks to acclimate its younger players onto the squad and solidify positions.
Despite the lack of victories in its first tournament, several underclassmen at last week’s Harvard Invitational made important contributions to the Crimson’s attacking and defense. Sophomore hitter Grace Roberts Burbank contributed 18 kills over the course of three games, while freshman libero Sydney Vach totaled 48 digs.
“Our freshmen are great additions to the team,” Cornelius said. “They came into our first tournament super fired up and super ready to go. I felt they were not afraid to challenge the upperclassmen which I find is really inspiring. Their competitiveness definitely keeps us on our toes.”
Due to this infusion of youth talent on the Harvard roster, it will be even more critical for veteran leaders to be mentors for the four freshmen and five returning sophomores.
“I definitely want to step up as a leader a bit more since I am the oldest player on the team,” said senior outside hitter Paige Kebe. “I want to leave senior year with no regrets and using that experience to lead this team is definitely a big goal of mine.”
With a week of game experience under its belt, the Crimson will be preparing to take on three non-conference opponents this Friday and Saturday.
The lone Friday match will feature Harvard against host Wright State, which will be playing its ninth match of the season when they face off against the Crimson.
The Raiders (2-5), have had a challenging schedule so far in the season, kicking off the campaign with bouts against Long Beach State in a late August tournament as well as a contest against the nation’s No. 2 ranked team in Stanford.
Although it failed to earn a single point in that tournament, Wright State has gone 2-2 since. Carried on offense by senior hitter Katie Klusman with 80 season kills, Harvard will need to control its defensive efforts and hold the Raiders below their current average of 12 kills per set.
On Saturday, the Crimson will match up against West Virginia and Tennessee Tech. Both teams have two tournaments under their belt, with the Mountaineers (4-2) holding a better record than the Golden Eagles (2-4).
Playing in the challenging Big 12 conference, West Virginia finished 12-18 last year. The Mountaineers encountered an Ivy League opponent just one time in the 2016-2017 season. In that sole contest, Dartmouth fell 3-0 to West Virginia.
Harvard’s final opponent of the weekend, Tennessee Tech, is also searching for some positive momentum over the weekend.
Carrying a four-game losing streak, the Golden Eagles come into the Holiday Inn Invitational as underdogs and will need to rely upon an improvement in their 0.125 hitting percentage for any success against their larger conference opponents.
For the Crimson, the focus will be on gradually finding the comfort zone for all players. This sentiment was echoed by senior leaders like Kebe, who commented that making adjustments and building team chemistry will be critical for Harvard’s success moving forward.
In finding this sweet spot, the Crimson hopes that tacking on a few wins will help advance its process. The end goal: claiming an Ivy League championship.
—Staff writer Henry Zhu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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