The Harvard men’s volleyball team suffered a pair of losses this weekend on its road trip to Pennsylvania, losing 3-1 to Saint Francis (5-5, 1-3 EIVA Tait) Friday night and 3-0 to Juniata (11-6, 4-0) Saturday afternoon.
The losses were the Crimson’s first on the road, with the scores exactly matching those of last year. Harvard (6-3, 0-0 EIVA Hay) got a strong performance from freshman Kyle Rehkemper, who recorded 23 kills over the weekend, but could not pull out a victory in either game.
JUNIATA 3, HARVARD 0
The Crimson struggled in the first set against the Eagles at the Kennedy Sports and Recreation Center, dropping three consecutive points at the beginning due to attack errors. Juniata would go on to take the set, 25-15, thanks to an efficient offense that made life difficult for the back row of the visiting team.
“We ran into a really good team on our first away weekend,” Rehkemper said, “and I don’t think we were mentally prepared for them to come out so strong from the start.”
Although Harvard kept it close early in the second set, tying the game at five all, the Eagles rallied off freshman Alex McColgin, who posted a game-high 10 kills. Juniata recorded 16 kills with just five errors en route to a 25-18 victory.
The Crimson came out determined in the third set, keeping the game close until the score was tied at 15. But the home team gained the momentum needed to finish the match after a time out, putting it down twice and adding a late ace to gain a 21-16 lead. A service error from Harvard freshman Michael Owens led to a 23-18 deficit, and the Eagles used back-to-back aces to seal the match, 25-18.
“They got an early jump on us, and the atmosphere really favored them,” Rehkemper said. “They were able to keep the pressure on us all game. But I think it will be a different story when they come play us at home.”
Junior co-captain Matt Jones and rookie Chris Gibbons led the Crimson with eight kills each, and sophomore Rob Lothman dished out 28 assists.
SAINT FRANCIS 3, HARVARD 1
Harvard started off strong in the first set at DeGol Arena, capitalizing on a sluggish Red Flash team to take a quick lead. Offensive errors plagued Saint Francis as it struggled to catch up, but the visiting team never let go of its lead, taking the set, 25-22. The Crimson recorded 10 kills in this set alone, with Rehkemper racking up four.
Harvard started strong once again in the second set, building a quick 13-9 lead. But the situation suddenly became reversed as the Red Flash established its offensive rhythm, storming back to take the set, 25-19. Led by its outside hitters, three of whom reached double digits in kills, Saint Francis tied the game through a combination of great blocking and offensive efficiency, recording 14 kills in the second set.
“They came out kind of sloppy,” Jones said, “but they tightened up the rest of the game. They kept getting better game by game. They made more serves. They missed eight serves in the first set…but after that, they started cutting down on their errors.”
From that point forth, the Red Flash never looked back, taking its momentum and sweeping the next two sets by the same score, 25-19. Saint Francis capitalized on the struggling Crimson offense to take a 14-7 lead in the third that it would not relinquish. Likewise, the Red Flash built up a 16-12 lead in the fourth set on its path to victory.
“We weren’t able to turn it around,” Jones said, “and our offense never got going.”
Although Harvard recorded respectable hitting totals—11 and 13 kills in the third and fourth sets, respectively—Saint Francis was just more efficient, recording 15 and 11 kills, respectively, with an above-.500 percentage in both sets.
Jones had a rare off night, finishing the game with nine kills and 10 errors.
“I hit terribly tonight,” Jones said. “They did a good job of blocking on the outsides.”
—Staff writer James Yu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.