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When the Harvard women's volleyball team travelled to UMass, ranked eighth in the Eastern Region, the Crimson knew it would be facing some tough competition. And unfortunately for Harvard (10-7, 3-2 Ivy), the Minutemen demonstrated how, they earned that eighth rank.
UMass took the lead early in the first game and never looked back, dominating Harvard 3-0 (15-7, 15-5, 15-12) in Worcester on Tuesday night.
The Minutemen opened the first game strongly, jumping on top 10-3, but solid play and side outs on both sides enabled the Crimson to cut the gap to 10-6.
"We knew coming in they would be tough," sophomore middle hitter Elissa Hart said. "They were strong last year when we played them. We were frazzled at first, but then we got more into the game."
Harvard's momentum couldn't carry it much further, though; the Crimson dropped the first game 15-7.
At the very beginning we got down by a lot," freshman outside hitter Melissa Forcum said. "We thought that we weren't as good. But then we started serving and got a few points. We got some side outs and there was a momentum shift. The beginning was the toughest."
Harvard appeared ready to even the score when it tallied the first three points of the second game. But UMass had other thoughts. The Minutemen scored 13 unanswered points to take a 13-3 lead.
"We had problems getting side outs," said Hart, referring to the second game. "This has been a problem for us all season--we need to work on it."
From there, UMass captured the game 15-5.
"Even though the score doesn't necessarily reflect it, we were more relaxed in the second game," Hart said.
In the third and--what proved to be--final game, the Crimson presented more of a threat to the Minutemen.
"A comment was made in the huddle just to have fun," Forcum said. "We weren't just having fun being there. We started to and our play came up with it."
The Minutemen nipped the Crimson by just two points, 15-13, to secure the shutout victory.
"They were definitely a good team," Forcum said. "We were intimidated to start with. We acted like we were beaten. I think that we started playing better, but they got better as the game progressed."
Sophomore middle hitter Sarah Logan led the team with eight kills. Forcum served the Crimson's only ace.
UMass, accustomed to the competition in the Atlantic 10 League, simply proved to be too much for a Harvard at less than full strength. Freshman setter Kate Nash did not make the trip because of a test. Junior outside hitter Heather Rypkema also did not travel.
Harvard, which is undefeated at home, will square off against Brown (3-14, 1-4) at the Malkin Athletic Center Friday at 7 p.m. Harvard hosts Yale (14-6, 3-2) on Saturday at 4 p.m.
"Both games are really important to us," Hart said. "We lost very close matches to Brown and Yale last year, so we want revenge."
Harvard is currently tied with Yale for third in the Ivy League standings behind undefeated Princeton and Cornell (4-1 Ivy). The Big Red's only loss came at the hands of the Crimson. This head-to-head advantage could give Harvard the upper hand in the standings should their records be evened.
According to Hart, the Crimson is definitely in the hunt for the Ivy League championship which will be determined by a double elimination tournament on November 10-12 at Penn.
"Everyone in the league is well matched," Hart said. "We're looking forward to the Ivy tournament; I'm optimistic."
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