Coming off a three-match winless road trip to California, the Crimson (2-5) traveled north for a final chance to pick up a preseason victory against a gritty opponent.
Though Harvard fought out of a 2-1 hole to force a deciding fifth game, the Wildcats (3-10) dominated play towards the end of the match to win, 3-2 (30-24, 25-30, 30-26, 19-30, 15-12).
The Crimson took game four, but UNH showed some fight towards the end of the frame and carried that momentum into the final game. Turning up the speed of play, the Wildcats built up a lead of 12-4, leaving them just three points from winning the match.
Although UNH did go on to close out the frame, Harvard went down swinging, taking eight of 10 points before the Wildcats closed the door.
“In the fifth it got a little bit out of our control—we couldn’t keep up with the pace,” junior co-captain Laura Mahon said. “It’s tough being down by that much, but at the same time, it was a great fight.”
The Wildcats controlled play to open the match, recording 20 kills on .289 while holding the Crimson attack to a meager .081 hitting percentage en route to a 30-24 victory.
Though UNH’s offense was less proficient in game three, its strong defensive pressure forced 11 Harvard attack errors and allowed the Wildcats to take a 2-1 match lead.
“We need to work on maintaining control throughout the match,” Mahon said. “We need to play our game.”
Nevertheless, the Crimson displayed flashes of the brilliance that was on display at the Harvard Invitational.
In game two, the Harvard attack—led by junior co-captain Suzie Trimble and sophomore outside hitter Kathryn McKinley, who each had 11 kills on the night—posted 19 kills while registering only 3 errors.
After UNH pulled within two points at 27-25, kills by Trimble and senior middle hitter Katie Turley-Molony and a Wildcat error gave the Crimson the frame, 30-25.
Harvard’s defense was dominant in game four, inducing 14 attack errors from UNH. The Crimson led by as much as 14 points en route to a 30-19 win.
But the late rally by the Wildcats helped them prepare for the up-and-down fifth frame, leaving Harvard just short of victory.
Still, the Crimson players have a positive outlook heading into Friday’s Ivy opener against the Big Green.
“Honestly, we’re feeling great,” Mahon said. “We’ve learned a lot from our losses from the past few matches, and we’re ready to peak at this point.”
—Staff writer Karan Lodha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.