In its first home match since March 6, the Crimson fell 3-0 (30-26, 30-22, 35-33) to EIVA Hay Division-foe Springfield. Despite building late leads in both the first and third games, Harvard (3-5, 1-3 Hay) was blanked for the second time this season.
“When we are playing good ball we go up on these guys and we look unbeatable,” said Harvard coach Rob Keller. “Then we stop for a second. I don’t know if it’s to take a step back and admire our work or what.”
The Pride (12-6, 8-0 Hay) raced to an early 8-4 lead behind big kills from outside hitter Greg Lardo. But after a Crimson timeout, Harvard stormed back, taking six of the next eight points to tie the game at 10. The squads then traded points until the score reached 19-19, when the Crimson slowly started to pull away.
Junior captain opposite Russ Mosier and junior middle blocker Juan Carlos Cardet teamed up to block a Lardo kill attempt, and a Lardo kill error on the next point gave Harvard its first two-point lead of the game at 21-19.
But after leading 25-23, the Crimson dropped five of the final six points, including the last four, giving Springfield the 30-26 victory.
“We’ve been lackadaisical,” said sophomore outside hitter Juan Ramos. “We haven’t had a sense of urgency. We need to work on that.”
Ramos spent the beginning of the season as the team’s libero while battling an ankle injury, but was back at his natural position for the third straight game. Sophomore Ryland Degan, who had been out with a lower back injury, has played libero since his return to action two weeks ago.
“What [the new lineup does] is give us three passers instead of two,” Keller said.
Even with its healthier lineup, Harvard couldn’t close out games. After dropping a sluggish second game, 30-22, the Crimson rebounded to play an intense third game.
After consecutive Springfield points brought the score to 15-15, Ramos—one of the more vocal players on a vocal team—yelled “Come on! Step it up!” Perhaps his teammates listened.
Harvard took the next three points—beginning with a Cardet kill and closing with captains setter Mike Bookman and middle blocker Alex Kowell combining for a big block—to take an 18-15 lead. The Crimson held its lead over a 16-point stretch, but with the score 26-23 in its favor, dropped four of five points to fall into a tie at 27.
The intense match reached its crescendo with the score tied 29-29. An errant Harvard dig sent Ramos out-of-bounds after the ball. In an attempt to save the point, Ramos crashed head first into a wooden set of bleachers. He remained on the ground wincing for several minutes.
“I just lost sight of everything but the ball,” Ramos said. “The ball was in front of my face and I was ready to hit it. That’s when I realized that the bleachers were also in front of my face.”
The play left Springfield serving for the match, but a monster kill by sophomore outside hitter Will Reppun tied the game at 30. The Crimson fought off three more match points—on kills from Reppun, Cardet and Ramos—before finally falling 35-33.
Harvard plays again this weekend, hosting EIVA opponents NJIT on Saturday and Vassar on Sunday.
—Staff writer Lande A. Spottswood can be reached at email@example.com.