If effort were all that mattered, then the Harvard men’s volleyball team would be undefeated this season.
But despite the best attempts of the Crimson (6-4, 0-2 EIVA Hay), Sacred Heart (6-3, 2-1) took a quick 3-0 victory Saturday afternoon at the Malkin Athletic Center. The loss was the third in a row for Harvard, which started its season 6-1.
“They beat us in every category,” Crimson coach Brian Baise said. “We played a little bit better in the third game, but we were beaten soundly. I didn’t feel it was ever a particularly close match.”
Harvard started the first set trading points against the Pioneers. With the score tied at five-all, the Crimson rallied behind several blocks from the front row to a 7-5 lead.
Although Harvard missed several serves early, it was able to compensate for the errors with a series of kills.
But the lengthy front row of Sacred Heart made life difficult for the Crimson hitters, and Sacred Heart rallied to tie the score.
Junior Matt Jones then floated one to slow the Pioneers’ momentum, and freshman Kyle Rehkemper aced the next serve to maintain the Harvard lead at 15-12.
But even that was not enough to stop Sacred Heart, as the visitors used a strong service game in combination with great blocking to take the set, 25-18.
Sacred Heart began the second set with three straight points, but Harvard took a lengthy rally followed by a quick kill to keep it close at 3-2.
Just as in the game before, the Crimson found no answer to the Pioneers’ offensive rhythm, and quickly found itself in a 9-6 hole.
Despite tying the score in the middle of the set, Harvard could not find its groove late, as Sacred Heart dominated at the net to take the set, 25-18.
“They didn’t make many errors,” Baise said, “and our offense continued to struggle. You just can’t win games when you’re hitting below .200. Their blocking was pretty good, but it was predictable where we were setting because we didn’t have many choices on offense.”
The two teams traded points to start the third set, and Matt Jones crushed one to tie the game, 3-3. The Crimson hustled after every point, but could not find an answer to Sacred Heart’s offense.
A block by freshman Nick Madden tied the game at six-apiece, and sophomore Rob Lothman tallied a deep ace. With the momentum firmly in its possession, Harvard used a great block by Jones to rally to an 8-6 lead, forcing a Pioneers time-out.
A solid defensive series for the Crimson gave it a 10-7 lead early in the third. Just when it appeared Harvard had hustled its way into another point, a controversial lane violation kept Sacred Heart close at 10-8.
Senior middle Shaun Mansour and Jones led the Crimson defense, both running far out of bounds every series to get loose balls.
“We always play hard,” Baise said. “These guys, they want it so badly. [The effort] is never an issue.”
The Pioneers stepped up their offense in response to Harvard’s hustle, scoring three straight points to tie the game at 12-all.
The Crimson hitters could not adjust to the Sacred Heart blocking, and the Pioneers once again used a combination of strong serves and front-row defense to regain a 16-13 lead, forcing a Harvard timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, the Crimson regained the momentum off a tremendous rally and rallied within one, but a late service error gave Sacred Heart a 22-20 lead.
A kill by the Crimson made it 22-21, but the Pioneers responded with a kill of their own to keep the two-point lead. A controversial line call gave Sacred Heart game point, and the Pioneers took the game—and the match—on a kill.
“We just got to get in practice and serve and pass a lot,” Jones said. “I thought we worked on it a lot during the weekend, but we just need to work on it some more.”
—Staff writer James Yu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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