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The Harvard men's volleyball team is emerging from its cocoon. No longer hampered by injuries, the team is beginning to shed the uncomfortable shell of problems that has plagued it this season.
Harvard lost to Roger Williams in three close sets (15-8, 15-13, 15-3) in Providence on Tuesday night.
In spite of the loss, the Crimson showed promise for the remainder of the season in the tightly contested match. The score was a considerable improvement from the team's last match, a disappointing one-sided loss to Princeton.
"I think that it was one of the best matches all year even though it was a loss," freshman Evan Mager said. "We started to prove that we're a real team."
The match was marked by the return of junior co-captain David Cho, who had been out all season with reconstructive wrist surgery and a sprained ankle. Cho proved a huge factor in the Crimson's competitiveness.
"There was better team spirit and blocking. [Cho's] return really helped us with team defense," senior co-captain Abbas Hyderi said. "It helped a lot to have another leader out on the court."
"Dave brings a lot of energy to the court that we lack," Mager said.
Harvard came out flat but picked up the pace in the second two sets. The team was often even with Roger Williams throughout the sets, but was unable to pull them out.
"The second two games literally slipped away at the end," Hyderi said.
As in previous matches, passing was key in determining the tenor of the game.
"Passing has been our biggest weakness," Hyderi said. "On the big points, we would automatically give them the point by not passing well."
The return of Cho and sophomore David Olson, who also just came off the injured list, should help Harvard in its upcoming contests.
Harvard still has a chance to come back this season; the tournament format of the Ivy league championship leaves the final standings up for grabs.
The tournament, to be held at Columbia on March 31, will involve an initial round of three matches for each team to determine seeding, followed by a round of double-elimination matches.
The team is also departing today for a tournament at Concordia College in New York. It will be an important weekend for the Crimson.
"Concordia gives us a shot at the other teams in the league. We want to gain some self-respect and respect in the league," Mager said. "When we played them before, we folded against them. This weekend will be very big for our morale."
Harvard's last home game before spring break will be on Wednesday against Springfield. The final home game will take place on March 23rd against NYU.
"With the return of Dave, things can come together for us," Hyderi said. "If we pass well we're a really solid team. Otherwise, there will be more sad times to come."
The improved performance against Roger Williams is a good sign.
"As a team, we're feeling a lot better about ourselves after Tuesday's match," Mager said.
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