The Crimson men’s volleyball team (3-4, 1-1 EIVA) beat crosstown opponent Newbury (16-2) in five sets last night at the Malkin Athletic Center.
Coming off a disappointing two-loss weekend, the team took the first two games and dropped the next pair before wrapping up the match in a highly-contested fifth game.
Just when it appeared that a win would be in easy reach for Harvard after the second set, Newbury started to prove otherwise.
“Half the time we play great and half the time we don’t,” Crimson coach Brian Baise said. “I thought the first two games were two of the best of the season. We were hitting at a much higher percentage than we had been.”
Harvard won the first set in a close fashion, 30-28.
The team made an early run before Newbury came back within striking distance.
As Newbury junior Mark Thomas, who finished with a team-high 25 kills, slammed down kill after kill, Crimson co-captain Brady Weissbourd and freshman Matt Jones responded each time with kills of their own.
With the game at 28-27, Weissbourd answered the call one last time, making two key kills to win the set.
Harvard finished the first set with a solid team attack of .389 and a match-high 19 kills.
The team continued its good play into the second game, dominating the Nighthawks, 30-23.
The Crimson energized the crowd as it raced to a 27-20 lead before trading a couple of points thanks to errors on both sides.
Harvard improved its team attack to .448, compared to Newbury’s dismal .121.
The third game would prove to be a different story.
Newbury bounced back from the previous set to beat the Crimson, 30-24.
The set was tied at 16 when Newbury went on a 4-0 run that changed the dynamic of the game.
Harvard cut the lead to 25-22, but the Crimson could not recover and made a set error and attack error that would cost it the set.
“For some reason that we haven’t figured out yet, whenever games three and four come around we sort of relapse and start making errors,” Baise said. “We lose a bit of focus.”
Newbury won in a similar manner in the fourth game, 30-25.
Harvard had four service errors, including one that shifted the momentum of the set when the game was tied at 20.
The Nighthawks hit their match high of .395, going strong and confident into the fifth set.
However, Harvard denied Newbury the comeback victory by hitting a match high of .529 in the final set.
Weissbourd, who had a monster match with 34 kills, came up big, killing the ball eight times.
The match ended on a service error by the Nighthawks, culminating a tense encounter with a team that’s been tested many times this season.
“Newbury is a really experienced team,” junior co-captain Gil Weintraub said. “They’ve played way more games than we have, so when you approach a team like that, you know they’re here to play. But I think we showed a lot of heart, and when it mattered, we won.”
Weintraub had a huge game, finishing with a career-high 67 assists.
It was in this match that he reached an important landmark in his collegiate career, surpassing 1000 assists.
“It’s pretty sweet, 1000 is a big number, a nice big round number,” Weintraub said. “I’m glad to be there.”
The Crimson offense showed signs of improvement despite the absence of freshman Nikola Ivica, a crucial factor in Harvard’s early-season victories.
Ivica was not present at last night’s game for unspecified reasons.
“Nikola Ivica is no longer on the team,” Baise said. “We’re down to nine players which make things real hard, but I like the guys we have.”
Even without Ivica in the lineup, Baise was proud to see how the team took last weekend’s losses and responded with a watershed victory.
“We talked about perspective, and both matches we didn’t play as well as we would’ve liked,” Baise said. “We knew that, and we learned some things. If we didn’t go and play those matches then maybe we couldn’t have pulled out this win tonight. It was hard, but I was proud of how they showed up tonight.”