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W. Volleyball Opens Ivy With Two Losses

By Nicolas O. Jimenez and Michael C. Sabala, Contributing Writerss

In a season marked by highs and lows, the Harvard women's volleyball team will have to wait for redemption against the two top teams in the Ivy League.

Harvard (7-9, 0-2 Ivy) lost its two opening league matchups this weekend at the Malkin Athletic Center, dropping Friday night's contest to Princeton (10-5, 1-1 Ivy) and Saturday afternoon's match to Penn (13-6, 1-1 Ivy).

The Crimson fell to the Tigers in five games, 16-14, 11-15, 16-4, 4-15, 15-12, and to the Quakers in three games, 15-12, 15-11, 15-13.

The highlight of the weekend, after a heartbreaking loss to Princeton on Friday, came Saturday when Harvard junior Erin Denniston recorded the 1,000th kill of her career.

Denniston is only the third player in Harvard history to reach the mark and the first junior to ever do so. However, the achievement was bittersweet considering it came during the weekend's second loss.

"It was nice that Erin got her 1,000th kill," said Harvard Coach Jennifer Weiss. "But I'm sure she would have wanted to get it in a winning [game]. She's the first junior to ever get that honor and she's done a great job for us."

Penn 3, Harvard 0

The Crimson offense had a hard time Saturday coming up with consistent play on the court. Harvard was unable to rattle the Quaker defense.

"We've done this before," Weiss said. "We do not match up very well against Penn. It's really hard for us to battle with them."

The Quakers came into the match looking for a win after losing their league-opening match the night before to Dartmouth in the fifth game.

"They played great defense," Weiss said. "They dug all the balls."

The Quakers had 11 team blocks and a game leading 79 defensive digs.

Quaker Stacey Carter led the attack on the Crimson, hitting .500 for the day with a team-leading 15 kills. Penn junior Kelly Szczerba contributed 14 kills, 10 digs and four block assists while freshman Elizabeth Kwak-Hefferan added 13 kills and 15 digs.

"I think we can learn from the loss," Weiss said. "Hopefully, we can step it up a little bit. We'll see them again, and we'll battle with them again."

Injuries could have been one reason for the Crimson's downfall.

"The loss of [freshman outside hitter] Allison Bendush to injury took away from the team's defense," said Crimson freshman Nathalie Miller. "However, we can learn from this defeat."

Bendush's skills on defense will be missed for much of the season, as she is sidelined four to six weeks with a broken ankle.

Harvard senior Angela Lutich showed her leadership skills in and out of play. She had 10 digs and a team-leading 15 kills, thanks in part to sophomore setter Mindy Jellin putting the ball in the right place.

"I think Angela [Lutich] did a nice job," Weiss said. "She was really working hard and you can tell even though we were not quite where we needed to be, she just tried."

Jellin had 40 assists and 15 digs on the Quakers. She continues to set up excellent offensive opportunities for the Crimson, as she has all season.

"Mindy Jellin is one of the best setters in the league," Weiss said. "She can help us get it together [to play the rest of our league schedule] successfully."

Princeton 3, Harvard 2

Friday's Ivy opener squared off Harvard and Princeton, but payback from last year's season-ending defeat wouldn't come this time around for the Crimson.

In a rematch of last year's Ivy League Championship, the Tigers and the Crimson battled intensely for five tight games, with Princeton emerging the victor, 16-14, 11-15, 16-14, 4-15, 15-12.

Princeton employed furious and unrelenting defense to escape with the match, never allowing the Crimson to fall into an offensive rhythm.

At times it seemed Harvard had broken through the Tigers' tenacious defense, easily winning the second game, 15-11, and crushing the Tigers 15-4 in the fourth game.

However, the Princeton defense stifled the Crimson when it was needed most--during the fifth and decisive game. Harvard nailed only nine kills out of 26 attempts during the rubber game, committing five errors for a hitting percentage of .154.

"Princeton plays great defense", Weiss said.

The Tiger defensive corps was lead by last year's Ivy League Player of the Year, senior outside hitter Sabrina King, who recorded 23 digs and five blocks.

Princeton junior setter Ana Yoerg and freshman outside hitter Kellie Cramm supported King, recording 18 and 15 digs, respectively. The Tigers as a team recorded 99 digs and 28 blocks, compared to Harvard's 78 and 20.

"We played our best match of the season so far", Weiss said. "If Princeton is one of the best teams in the league, then we are really close to being there."

The Crimson showed resiliency throughout entire match, losing two very close games and still forcing Princeton to a fifth game.

After Princeton managed to take the first game, 16-14, Harvard came back to win the second game, 15-12. The Crimson built a 10-3 lead on the play of Denniston, Jellin and co- captain Katherine Hart, the three of them dominating the offensive game. Princeton managed to make it 12-9 before the Crimson finally finished the Tigers off.

The third game found Harvard down 10-4, but once again Denniston, Jellin and Hart brought them back to 10-10. Jellin continually set up Denniston, whose powerful kills easily breached the Princeton block. Whenever the Tigers did manage to return the ball, Hart's clutch digs and pinpoint kills kept the momentum on Harvard's side.

"Mindy and I were connecting well," Hart said.

The Crimson fought to 14-14, but a long rally, where King made several game-saving digs and finally tipped the ball between diving Crimson players, ended the run. Princeton took the game 16-14.

The fourth game was all Harvard, with the Crimson quickly building a 14-3 lead. Denniston and Hart were crucial during this run, emphatically powering the Crimson past a stunned Tiger defense. It quickly ended, 15-4.

The fifth game was closely fought as both teams smelled victory. Harvard went up 10-7, but the Tigers clawed back to 11-11. The Crimson generated kill after kill, but the Princeton defense, lead by King, played its finest, seemingly blocking every one of them back to the Harvard side.

Harvard was unable to solve the defense in time and fell 15-12.

"We faced a very tough defensive team, but we should have won this," Hart said. "Our whole team played an excellent match, only the momentum shifted quickly at the end."

Denniston finished with a match- high 23 kills while Hart recorded 18 kills and 13 digs. Jellin recorded a match- high 62 assists to go along with 10 digs.

"We look forward to seeing them again in the Ivy League Tournament," Weiss said.

Until then, the Crimson will have to bolster its Ivy League record in order to not face either team in the first round. Harvard will have a chance to do that this weekend with matches at Cornell and Columbia.

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