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Sometimes you have it; sometimes you don’t. Over a grueling season-opening stretch of five matches in 10 days, the Harvard men’s volleyball team has proved to have it more often than not.
On Saturday, the Crimson (3-2, 2-1 Hay) defeted Queens 3-2 before losing to Vassar, 3-0, yesterday.
Vassar 3, Harvard 0
Against Vassar (6-0, 3-0), Harvard fell behind early and faced a deficit of 18-9 in the first game. The Crimson closed the gap temporarily, but the margin proved too big to overcome and Harvard fell 30-22.
“We didn’t have the intensity and edge when we started the match,” said captain Mike Bookman. “It’s pretty difficult playing two really important conference matches back-to-back.”
The second and third games looked more promising for the team, but the Brewers’ tough serving and fast offense overpowered the Crimson, closing Harvard out 30-27 and 30-28.
The combination of the two disrupted the Crimson’s ability to set up its own offense.
“We hit a lot of balls out,” said Harvard coach Rob Keller. “We were always shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Indeed, Vassar had 47 kills in 98 attacks, while the Crimson mustered only 32 in 92 attempts.
Junior captain Russ Mosier led the Crimson with 12 kills.
“Everyone felt a possibility that we could have gone five sets,” Bookman said. “We are closely matched teams, but we just didn’t have the mental energy today to really challenge them point for point.”
Harvard 3, Queens 2
Harvard experienced more success at Queens (5-4, 0-2) on Saturday. In an exciting five-set decision, the Crimson emerged with an important conference victory.
After Harvard won the first two games 30-22 and 30-26, the Knights gained the momentum by squeaking out the third game, 31-29, before winning the fourth game to tie the match. But the Crimson finally shut Queens down in the fifth game, 15-9.
Bookman complimented the blocking, which had been a struggling operation, for shutting down the Knights’ big hitters.
Due to its small, nine-man roster, the Crimson faces an additional challenge this season. Since it doesn’t have the twelve players required to run a full scrimmage in practice, its only chance to string together individual skills comes during the team’s matches. Players and coaches agree that this makes scouting and simulating match situations much more challenging.
Harvard’s next match is a non-conference visit to Concordia next Sunday. The team is excited to settle into a more normal schedule and allow some of its injuries to heal. No one is worried about the competitive edge of this team, which hopes to make a run for the playoffs.
“We’re right where we need to be,” Keller said.
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