Just one day removed from a sweep by a league opponent, the Harvard men’s volleyball team came up with one of its own, defeating winless Sacred Heart 3-0 (30-13, 30-27, 30-24) on Saturday afternoon at the Malkin Athletic Center.
After losing to Springfield for the second time this year, the Crimson (4-9, 3-3 Hay) returned home needing a victory to stay in the race for the division crown.
With the Pioneers (0-9, 0-4 Hay) struggling to compete this season, Harvard picked up the win while allowing coach Chris Ridolfi to play the entire roster.
“These games are fun,” co-captain John Freese said. “They allow you to work on different things, and everyone saw some playing time.”
Harvard’s defense contained a weak Sacred Heart attack throughout the match, as the Pioneers registered only 28 kills on .063 hitting.
On the other side of the net, the Crimson offense sputtered at times but managed a .239 attack percentage, led by freshman middle hitter Brady Weissbourd’s 11 kills on .529 hitting.
“[Weissbourd] was always there skill-wise,” Ridolfi said, “But now he’s catching up experience-wise, and he’s going to be a real help to us down the stretch.”
Down 1-0, the Pioneers played with a level of desperation in game two.
Setting up an effective block, Sacred Heart virtually shut down the Harvard offense, posting seven team blocks and limiting the Crimson to .036 hitting.
In a frame that featured eight ties and four lead changes, neither team managed to open up a significant gap until Harvard took advantage of three consecutive Crimson kills and two Pioneer errors to move ahead 17-11.
But Sacred Heart came right back, going on a 10-3 run propelled by four blocks and two consecutive aces to take its first lead of the match at 21-20. A series of errors by Harvard pushed the Pioneers ahead, 25-23, forcing Ridolfi to call a timeout.
Coming out of the break, however, Sacred Heart collapsed, registering five errors as the Crimson fired off a 7-2 streak to take game two, 30-27.
“Today, we executed pretty well—on the emotional side,” Ridolfi said. “We were a little confused down the stretch with some new guys in the lineup, but overall the level of play was pretty good.”
With the match under control, Ridolfi rotated into the game several of his less experienced players in the third frame.
Freshman Jeff Nathan and sophomore Jamie Crooks—who is playing his first season of volleyball after rowing men’s crew last year—saw extended action and played well as the Crimson closed out the match, 30-24.
“Every guys works hard in practice,” Ridolfi said. “So it’s nice to get them a little reward for the practice time.”
Harvard played its best volleyball in the first frame of the match, opening with 14 kills on .565 hitting.
With Weissbourd and co-captain Seamus McKiernan producing a series of kills and blocks, the Crimson jumped out to a 14-5 cushion.
Unable to penetrate Harvard’s tight defense, Sacred Heart registered as many errors as it did kills, barely managing to edge its tally into double digits as the Crimson streaked to a 30-13 victory.
Though the Pioneers played better in the following two frames, Harvard did just enough to win the match.
“There was no scouting report today,” Ridolfi said. “We simply laid down things—let’s go basic, let’s get this A-B-C done, and try to be a little emotional.”
“Now, we’re starting to turn the corner,” he added.
The Crimson will return to action when it travels down Massachusetts Avenue to face its local rival, MIT, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.
—Staff writer Karan Lodha can be reached at email@example.com.
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