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It’s always good to start off on the right foot.
Kicking off its season with a win, the Harvard men’s volleyball team defeated Rivier College, 3-2 (30-23, 22-30, 26-30, 30-19, 16-14) at the Muldoon Health and Fitness Center in Nashua, N.H. last night. The non-conference victory against the Raiders marks the beginning of what the Crimson hopes to be a return to its glory days.
After last season’s disappointing 5-5 finish, which landed Harvard in third place, the Crimson fell short of continuing on to the EIVA playoffs. But with new leadership under interim head coach Jose Barbosa, the experience of seven returning players, and the fresh talent of four new team members, Harvard is primed and ready to reestablish its footing in the EIVA.
Last night’s win was a step in the right direction.
The Crimson made a solid start in the first game and quickly surpassed the Raiders, 30-23. Stringing together a series of passing plays, Harvard was able to grab hold of the lead and seize the win.
“Overall, we came out in the first game as strong as we could’ve wanted to,” senior libero Brian Rapp said. “We passed well, we made every offensive play we wanted to, we really had our way with that team.”
But Harvard lost its momentum in the second and third game. As the Crimson fumbled on a few serves at key moments, Rivier took advantage of Harvard’s missteps to take control of the game. After falling behind early, the Crimson failed to overtake the Raiders, and so Rivier was able to clinch back-to-back wins, 22-30 and 26-30, respectively.
“In the second and third game, we kind of started out a little flat, which we can’t do, especially this weekend [against Rutgers],” said senior outside hitter Jordan Weitzen. “Coming out flat, you have to play catch-up, and no matter how good we play, that’s difficult to do.”
Although the Crimson succumbed to the Raiders in the middle of the match, Harvard altered its serving strategy, which allowed it to regain its edge in the fourth and fifth games.
“We were able to change on the fly really quickly,” Weitzen said.
After a few minor adjustments, Harvard was back in the driver’s seat. Taking an early lead, the Crimson continued to focus on its serving techniques and its passing game to keep Rivier down. Maintaining a strong offensive drive, Harvard didn’t give the Raiders a chance in the fourth game, routing Rivier, 30-19, and sealing its victory in the final game, 16-14.
“Even when we were down, we honestly worked together the whole time and remained really positive,” Weitzen said. “In the first, fourth and really in the fifth games, we made our serves and came out on fire. They weren’t ever going to catch up to us once we had a good lead.”
The Crimson’s team unity will play a crucial role in its upcoming conference games this weekend. As Harvard learned from last season’s shortcomings, every game counts when it comes to gaining a spot in the playoffs.
“These games over the weekend will set the tone for how we’re going to play our league this year,” Rapp said. “If we come out on Friday, Saturday and Tuesday and take all these teams, we’ll be the team to be beaten.”
The Crimson will take on Rutgers-Newark in its first home game at the recently-renovated Malkin Athletic Center tomorrow night and will face Sacred Heart at home on Saturday.
—Staff writer Courtney D. Skinner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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