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The Harvard women's volleyball team learned quickly this weekend that it does not like the taste of defeat.
After losing to Providence College in five games during its first match of the Harvard Classic, the Crimson bounced back and did not drop a game the rest of the tournament, beating Holy Cross, 15-7, 15-4, 15-11, and Hartford, 15-1, 15-12, 15-10.
"It was our tournament because it was at home [at the Malkin Athletic Center], and we had a lot of fans cheering for us," sophomore setter Mindy Jellin said. "After the loss [to Providence], we decided that we wanted to win on our home turf."
Harvard (5-4, 0-0 Ivy) and Providence were the only two teams in the field of four schools to place two players on the All-Tournament Team. Jellin, who had 40 assists against Holy Cross, and junior outside hitter Erin Denniston, who racked up 14 kills during the same match, garnered All-Tournament honors for their stellar work.
Harvard 3, Hartford 0
"During the other two games, we came out slow, and but we came out strong against Hartford and pushed hard the whole way," Jellin said. "We were just pleased that we stuck it out and pulled out the last two [matches] in three games."
Co-captain Katherine Hart led the Crimson with 10 kills, and sophomore outside hitter Nicole Meunier, a transfer student from Dartmouth who has seen significant playing time for the Crimson this season, added seven kills and 11 digs.
Harvard dominated the Hawks in the first game, winning 15-1. Hartford regained its composure in the second game and began to challenge the Harvard offense with better blocking, but the Crimson captured the second game, 15-12.
The Crimson sensed that it could close out the match quickly at the start of the third game and started out aggressively to end the match, eventually winning the third game, 15-10.
Harvard 3, Holy Cross 0
"We had some very solid passing and serving," Harvard Coach Jennifer Weiss said. "Our serving was very aggressive, and it's good to play a fast-paced match Friday and play a little bit slower the next day."
Denniston led the Crimson attack with a .407 hitting percentage for the match and racking up 14 kills on 27 attempts. With the freshmen seeing significant playing time throughout the match, rookie middle hitter Lauren Gallagher added eight kills, and sophomore outside hitter Nicole Meunier tacked on nine digs.
With many players rotating in and out during the match, Jellin had the difficult task of remaining the stabilizing influence on the court and orchestrating the offense.
"[Jellin] did a good job of running the offense and trying to see what was available since we had many different hitters entering the game," Weiss said.
The Crimson handily won the first game, 15-7, and solid serving allowed Harvard to surge to a quick 6-1 lead in the second game. A kill by Holy Cross's Carissa Bennett forced a sideout, and the Crusaders inched back to within 6-3. The potent Crimson offense, however, could not be stopped, and after Harvard enjoyed an 8-1 scoring spree, an ace by Hart forced game point. A block from Denniston and Gallagher won the game for the Crimson, 15-4.
The Crusaders remained hungry for the win, however, and they jumped out to a 6-3 lead at the start of the third game. The Crimson battled back to tie the game at 6-6, and the two teams repeatedly exchanged sideouts until finding themselves tied at 8-8. After Holy Cross Coach Peter Viterotto called a timeout, both teams furiously fought for control but were locked again at 11. With the Crusaders in possession of the ball, Holy Cross' Bennett served the ball into the net, and Denniston answered with a kill to give the Crimson a 12-11 lead.
After the teams swapped sideouts, an ace by Jellin boosted the Crimson's lead to 13-11, and freshman middle blocker Amy Asare tipped the ball over the net to force game point. A Denniston serve was too much for the Crusaders' Kerri Blumenauer to handle,
and Harvard won the final game, 15-11.
Providence 3, Harvard 2
"It was a disappointing loss because it was so close," Jellin said.
Senior outside hitter Angela Lutich led the Crimson with 19 kills and 12 digs, and Hart racked up 12 kills, 11 digs and three solo blocks. Denniston had 15 digs, and Jellin had another superb all-around game, racking up a team-high 18 digs and assisting on 54 points.
With both teams playing their first match of the tournament with aggressiveness and alacrity, the fast-paced, high-energy match lasted over two hours. The Friars won the first two games, 12-15 and 13-15, but Harvard fought back in the third game with strong blocking and serving to win, 15-10.
The Crimson maintained its momentum and won the fourth game, 15-13. Harvard almost pulled off the upset and challenged Providence throughout the fifth game, but the Friars eventually prevailed, winning the final game, 16-14.
One significant factor in the Crimson's success this weekend was the steady contribution of the squad's new faces, composed of seven freshmen and one transfer student. This year, the team's three seniors--Hart, Lutich, and co-captain Sarah Mattson--face the difficult challenge of making the rookies an important component of the team both on the court and in the locker room.
"The freshmen understand their role," Weiss said. "There's no question that they're all working together and that all 15 are playing together as a unit."
Several rookies, such as Asare, Meunier and freshman outside hitter Allison Bendush, played like veterans throughout the weekend.
"The freshmen are a really big part of this team, and a lot of us get playing time," Asare said. "We feel just a part of the team as anyone."
The Crimson travels to UConn tomorrow for its next contest.
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