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WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Rough Season Gives Inexperienced Squad Chance to Improve

By Cameron Dowd, Crimson Staff Writer

The young Harvard women’s volleyball team struggled mightily at the onset of its season but finished the year on a high note, winning four of its last seven games.

“We had a pretty young team with two seniors, three juniors, five sophomores, and five freshmen,” junior Christine Wu said. “Before the season we were wondering what kind of potential we would have, but despite being young, we had a solid year.”

The Crimson’s (9-17, 6-8 Ivy) lack of experience and limited time to incorporate freshmen resulted in a rough stretch to start the year.

“Volleyball is a very mental game,” junior co-captain Anne Carroll Ingersoll said. “We have a lot of talent on our team now, and we have always had. I think something that is really important is having the mentality of winning and doing whatever it takes to win. The season is so short, and we don’t get our full team together with all the freshmen till August.”

After a five-set victory against Bryant in the second game of the season, the team fell into a rut, losing nine of its next 10 matches, including seven straight. At the end of 14 contests, Harvard had only won twice.

The squad finally rebounded after the rough stretch, winning three of its next four games, including a dramatic five-set win over New Hampshire to break the losing streak.

After briefly relapsing into its losing ways, the Crimson proceeded to finish the year on a high note, including a 3-2 win over the Tigers on Senior Night.

“We had some ups and downs [in the season],” Ingersoll said. “We had a great game against Princeton. We really found our team dynamic and found an energy that we needed to bring to more games to be more successful as a whole. Those little moments were exciting for us.”

In the match, Princeton forced a fifth set, but Harvard was able to prevail in the end.

“That game was amazing [and a] great way for our two seniors, Miyoko [Pettit] and Mikaelle [Comrie], to close out their careers,” Wu said. “Both of them had lights-out games. We remembered how heartbreaking it was in the first loss [to Princeton], and we knew what it took to beat them.”

Cormie collected 20 kills in the win, one shy of her career high, while Pettit tallied a personal-best 17 digs in the contest.

Harvard will look to build off the momentum gained at the end of the season as a springboard for next season.

“I think it was important for us to end on that kind of note, just to prove what we can do and show what kind of level we should be playing at,” Ingersoll said. “We only have a few months together, and so [it’s important] to take note when you have great games and wins like the Princeton win and [learn] from that. I think that’s definitely something we will take into next season.”

Next year, the Crimson returns most of its top players. Sophomore Taylor Docter paced the team with 198 kills, while Ingersoll and junior Sandra Lynne Fryhofer were close behind with 190 and 186 kills, respectively. Fryhofer was also selected to  the second-team All-Ivy League. All three athletes will be prominent in Harvard’s front line next season. Wu recorded 449 digs on the season and will resume her post as the team’s libero in the 2011 campaign.

“[Fryhofer], Wu, and I we came in together as freshman with big goals and high expectations for the program,” Ingersoll said. “As seniors, we are in a good spot to set that tone for the rest of the team. We are really excited. It’s our last shot at an Ivy title. The three of us have started since freshman year so its now or never.”

“This is our year,” Ingersoll added.

—Staff writer Cameron Dowd can be reached at camerondowd14@college.harvard.edu.

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Women's VolleyballCommencement 2011Year in Sports 2011