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The Harvard men’s volleyball made the trip to New Haven last night looking to teach their opponent a thing or two. Instead it was the Crimson that learned something, swept by the Chargers as outside hitter Neil Mayo put on a clinic.
New Haven (9-1, 5-1 EIVA) put the Crimson (6-3, 5-3) away 30-19, 30-18, 30-22. Mayo had a game-high 16 kills.
The Chargers jumped ahead early in each of the first two games, running up eight-point leads before the Crimson could muster any offense. From that point forward, Harvard was forced to adjust its strategy.
“Playing catch-up is never easy to do,” said junior outside hitter Juan Ramos. “It’s frustrating. They forced us to be more conservative and change our game plan. Things are different when every mistake counts for them.”
“The first two games were almost identical,” said sophomore middle blocker Seamus McKiernan, “Their serve was tough and gave us problems. We battled back, but trading point for point wasn’t enough.”
By the third game Harvard was playing better, but not well enough to close the gap.
“Our passing wasn’t good, and we became predictable,” Ramos said. “The whole thing was just a spiral that kept going down.”
Preparation may have been an issue. Having played three matches in the last four days, the Crimson may not have been fully aware of the challenge New Haven would provide.
“It was a tough road trip, and a tough gym to play in,” McKiernan said. “They came in pumped up and wanted to knock us off our pedestal. The problem was, we didn’t know much about them, and they seemed to know a lot about us.”
In particular, McKiernan said, a contrast in styles created problems for the Crimson.
“We play a more traditional game, but they switched things up a lot, ran some trickier plays that we didn’t react to well," McKiernan said. "As a result we had only one blocker up, which is never good.”
To be swept was especially painful. Earlier this season, the Crimson ran through three straight opponents without a loss. Being on the other side of a lopsided match proved a different experience.
“It’s the worst feeling ever,” Ramos said. "Just demoralizing. The fact that we did it to other teams earlier this season and know how that feels makes it all the worse.”
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the Crimson will look to build from this experience. With a big contest this weekend at NYU, the players feel there is a lot at stake.
“A game like this is a real wake-up call,” McKiernan said. “Playing like this won’t work in the playoffs. We know we can play with the best teams on the East Coast, but we also know we have work to do.”
A bit of a break and the chance for three team practices this weekend should provide an opportunity for improvement.
“We’re looking forward to getting back into the gym and working on fundamentals,” McKiernan said. “The NYU game is a huge turning point in our season, and things have to go well.”
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