Every streak must have its end, and although the Harvard men’s volleyball team started the season 2-0, it met its match last night at the Malkin Athletic Center against a hot Cal Baptist team, also riding a six-game win streak.
The Crimson (2-1, 0-0 EIVA Hay) lost three quick sets to the Lancers (8-3, 0-0 NAIA), which are ranked No. 1 in the AVCA NAIA Division, losing by the score of 25-14, 25-12, and 25-15.
“We were outplayed from point one to the last one,” Harvard coach Brian Baise said. “They are a really good team with a lot of size.”
Harvard started off slowly, committing several hitting errors and allowing CBU to rally to a 7-3 lead early in the first set. Coming out of a timeout, a strong service game brought the Crimson back into contention, 9-7, but as Harvard’s defense struggled, the Lancers went up, 12-8.
“We served pretty well,” Baise said, “I felt we put some pressure on their passers, but they did a good job handling it. We didn’t back it up with…offense of our own. We didn’t play defense particularly well. We need to do more than serve.”
CBU’s front row caused trouble for the Crimson offense, blocking several shots early in the set.
“They blocked pretty [well] everywhere,” junior Matt Jones said. “As a team, we didn’t pass well, so it makes it easier for them to put the block up. When the set is coming from further away from the net, they usually know where it’s going.”
The Lancers’ powerful serves broke down Harvard’s passing, leading to a 7-3 run, forcing the Crimson to call its second timeout with the score set at 19-11. CBU continued its dominance, forcing a large 23-12 lead. The Lancers capped off a dominant 25-14 set with a powerful kill by junior Levi Cabral, who finished with a game-high 10 kills.
“We couldn’t handle their serves,” Baise said. “It was simple as that. When you can’t handle serves in volleyball, you have no chance to run your offense.”
CBU started off the second set with three straight points, relying on its great defense and accurate serves to take the lead.
Despite several impressive plays by Harvard, the Lancers jumped to an 11-4 lead, using its serving power to disrupt the Crimson’s offensive rhythm.
Inconsistent passing led to hitting errors by Harvard, forcing a 15-5 deficit in the middle of the second set. Despite a late ace by the Jones, the Crimson could not find the answer to CBU’s offense, dropping the set, 25-12, and going down, 2-0, on the match.
“[We need to be] playing consistently throughout the whole match and try to not give up those big runs of four or five points,” Jones said. “The more we can minimize those, the better.”
Harvard got a solid start in the third set, leading 4-2 early. But, like in the last two sets, the Lancers’ service game stopped any Crimson momentum, and got CBU back up top, 11-7. After trading several points, the Lancers went on a three-point run followed by a second five-point run that enabled the CBU to take the game, 25-15, and, ultimately, the match.
Jones finished with five kills, and freshmen Kyle Rehkemper, Chris Gibbons, and Michael Owen racked up six, five, and three kills, respectively.
“I think our freshmen are playing with a lot of confidence,” Jones said. “Hopefully this means we will be good for quite a few years. The term ‘freshman’ is a term that’s thrown around a lot. The question is whether or not you can play volleyball at a high level, and right now those guys are doing that.”
—Staff writer James Yu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.