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Losses hurt. Close losses usually hurt worse, And the closest of loses, those decided by one or two plays out of a hundred, bring numbness.
Numbness out of pain, that is, or, in the case of Harvard's women's volleyball team (8-14 overall, 3-4 Ivy), bemusement. On a two-day road trip that surely left the team members with chewed-off fingernails, the squad suffered 3-2 losses to league rivals Brown, on Friday, and Yale, on Saturday. Afterwards, team members weren't quite sure whether to scream or rejoice.
"It was one of those games after which you aren't really sure what you feel," sophomore Heather Rypkema said. "We played well--we're getting better, but if we had won, we would have been in a good position."
The Crimson knew that both games were going to be close going into the weekend, and that the games were important. Yale is rated third in the league, Dartmouth and Harvard are tied for fourth. Two wins would have given the Crimson a chance for a top-three finish in the league.
Harvard had a better idea of what it was up against going into the Brown game. The Crimson had lost to the Bears earlier in the season, on September 24, 3-1. The squad was defeated resoundingly in the match, 15-0, 10-15, 15-2, 15-11.
"We pretty much knew what to expect against Brown, although we were hoping that we could play a little better than we did before," Heit said. "It had been a bad day for us. We were confident that we could do better.
The Crimson proved it, too. Rather than struggling throughout the game, it struggled only half of the time, as it traded wins with the Bears. Harvard won the first and third games, 15-8 and 15-2, respectively, Brown won the second and fourth games, 15-8 and 16-14.
The 2-2 gridlock was the broken by a fifth game marred by controversy. Ivy League rules say that the fifth game in a match must be a rally-score game, a contest in which a team can score when the other team is serving. Brown officials, however, opted to play a conventional game. The Bears won, 15-11.
The Crimson are filing a complaint with league officials.
"There's no telling whether it would have ended differently had we played normal," Heit said. "They played a good match, and certainly played better than us in the last game. We just wish it would have been played like it was supposed it."
Harvard had little time to dwell on the controversy. The next day it traveled to New Haven to take on the Bulldogs, who had beaten the Bears earlier this season.
"We knew that Yale would be as good if not better than Brown," Rypkema said.
The Bulldogs proved it in the contest, but not without a solid effort from the Crimson.
Harvard came out strong in the match, winning the first game 15-11 and jumping out to a seemingly-impregnable 11-0 lead in the second.
From there, though, Brown roared back. It outpaced Harvard 15-1 through the rest of the second game to win, 15-12. It then took the third game, 14-10.
While Harvard garnered a 15-13 win the fourth. Yale won the rally-point fifth game by an inch, 15-13, and took match honors.
In all, though, while the losses hurt the Crimson's record. It improved its confidence going into the last two weeks of regular-season play before the league championships November 11-12.
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