A classic mixture of talent and inexperience, the Harvard men's volleyball team in its first year as a varsity sport has the potential to succeed where last year's squad fell just short--in winning the Ivy League championship, according to coach Mike Palm.
Two of Harvard's top six players are freshmen, and two others are sophomores. The small amount of experience on the team is placed optimally; Palm has three experienced setters in co-captains Tom Houliban and Brad Martin and back-up Kyle Konishi. Like a basketball point guard and a football quarterback, the setter acts as a floor leader and controls the ball.
In addition to his Ivy hopes, Palm expects this year's squad to improve on last year's finish in the middle of the 20-member East Coast Volleyball League. "We could finish as high as third," Palm says.
Just how close the spikers come to accomplishing Palm's goals will depend on the rate and extent of improvement in back-row play. For this year at least, as go the service passing and defense, so goes the Crimson. If the back row play improves enough. Harvard should pose a threat to almost any Eastern team. "If this team gets the ball up to the setters in good position at the set, we have the power to score against most teams," Palm predicts
Crimson play at the not may well surpass that of last year's squad, despite the loss of two All-Ivy League hitters. Terry Trumbull and Rich Rohan. Two freshman imports from southern California will fill the departing hitters' shoes.
Freshman Sean Doyle should give Harvard abundant power from the outside, while classmate Jon Ross has the potential to dominate the middle of the not. Doyle earned MVP honors in San Diego high school competition last year, while Ross made the Los Angeles. All-City squad. By Ivy standards the two are already very good.
Released and Confident
Ross and Doyle complement each other well, and their acquisition gives Palm more flexibility in positioning players. Last year, Palm had to move Trumbull and Rohan around depending on the game situation. This year, positioning should become more stable because of the spikers' multiple talents.
Sophomores John Tanaka and David Twite return this year markedly improved over last year. Tanaka suffered an ankle sprain in practice two works ago and has only recently began to work out on it. But the sprain is minor, and he should be back at full strength soon.
"With a young team it's important to build up momentum early in the year," Palm says, explaining that an experienced team has less difficulty digging in an regrouping in the face of a rough first few games.
Showdowns wish strong Princeton and Army teams await the Crimson next weekend. By then Tanaka should be recovered from his sprain. Harvard's first three contests should prepare it for next weekend's matches.
Tomorrow's season-opening trip to Yale, Palm's alma mater, should be comparable to stepping into a pool at the shallow and before forging ahead into deeper waters. The Crimson faced the Elis in a fall scrimmage, and "unless [Yale] has improved dramatically since then, [Harvard] shouldn't have much trouble," Palm says. Columbia will also be in New Haven to face Yale, and Harvard has arranged a scrimmage against the Lions.
Sunday, the spikers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology climb the stairs of the IAB to challenge the Crimson.
THE NOTEBOOK: Harvard faced Dartmouth in an informal scrimmage last weekend. Only two Crimson starters made the trip to Hanover, and Palm did not attend the match. The Harvard contingent lost...Palm played for the Yale spikers while an undergraduate, then coached the team to a berth in the NCAA final four. The Elis finished fourth. Since then, the Yale volleyball program has declined. "The program there is in terrible disrepair," Palm says.