“I think we underestimated them, and it kind of showed in our play,” sophomore setter Gil Weintraub said. “I’m kind of bitter because I’ve never lost to MIT before and it really sucks.”
Starting off on the right foot, the Crimson broke through a neck-and-neck struggle with the Engineers midway through the first game with two aces from Weintraub and six kills from junior captain Brady Weissbourd. Harvard continued on to breeze through the frame for a 30-22 victory.
“The first game was close all the way to about 15 all, and then we started collecting points in groups,” Weintraub said. “Then they got nervous and started missing serves.”
But MIT wouldn’t be that easy to stop.
“In the second game, they wanted to turn it around,” Weintraub said. “They started getting scrappy and picking up balls, and they pulled away from us in the end.”
After the cross-town rivals reached a 15-15 tie, the Engineers took the lead and soundly defeated Harvard, 30-26 in game two. MIT’s momentum continued into the third game, as the Engineers pulled far ahead of the Crimson early into the frame. But with Weissbourd serving, Harvard managed to close the gap and level the score at 26. However, the Crimson failed to maintain its stride and allowed MIT to score a crucial two points, putting the Engineers ahead for good, 30-28.
“You’d think at that point we’d have the momentum, but…they ended up pulling away because we couldn’t turn it around fast enough,” Weintraub said.
In the fourth game, Harvard looked like it would make a comeback, as Weissbourd slammed down a kill near the end of the stanza to close the scoring gap, 26-28. But the Crimson couldn’t drum up enough momentum for the final push against MIT and was ultimately defeated, 30-27.
Entering the match against the Engineers, four Harvard players were ranked in the nation’s top-20 for their performance in six statistical categories. And last night senior Jamie Crooks notched 17 kills to lead the Harvard offense, and Weissbourd tallied 16 kills of his own.
But despite consistently solid individual numbers, the Crimson still couldn’t manage to overcome MIT. With senior outside hitter Jordan Weitzen still on the sidelines as a result of his concussion earlier this season, the Crimson is struggling to find someone to take over the position.
Junior Jeff Nathan and freshman Shaun Mansour have been alternating as outside hitters in the past few games, but the lack of experience puts Harvard at a disadvantage.
“Unfortunately Jordan’s shoes are a little bigger than we thought they’d be,” Weintraub said. “I mean, with Jordan out of the game, we’re missing a crucial part of that offense, and we’re trying to fill his shoes right now. We need someone to step up and balance our team out.”
The Crimson returns to conference matches the weekend of March 28-29, when it will face Sacred Heart and NYU on the road. In a tight race for a bid to the EIVA playoffs, Harvard needs a victory against the Violets, who are currently in second place in the Hay Division, to advance.
“The NYU match is basically going to decide who goes to the playoffs, so we’ve got to fight hard,” Weintraub said.
Although the Crimson toppled Sacred Heart in an easy 3-0 match earlier this season, Harvard yielded to NYU, 2-3 when the teams met in Cambrdige in February.
“NYU is not a team we’ve beaten, so we’re most focused on NYU,” Weintraub said. “That being said, with a four-game losing streak, we’re in no position to take any team lightly, and I think our team knows that.”
—Staff writer Courtney D. Skinner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.