The Harvard men’s volleyball team (2-3, 1-0 EIVA) opened its conference season with a resounding win away from home at Sacred Heart (3-5, 0-1 EIVA). The Pioneers' offense was completely stifled by the Crimson defense, being held to a hitting percentage of -.047.
“I’m very happy with how the team played,” co-captain Nick Madden said. “I think we overall put together a very solid game, and we won the match 3-0. You can’t ask for a better way to start a season.”
Each set followed a familiar pattern as Harvard would start out hot, jumping out to an early lead but with Sacred Heart still within reach. In all three matches, a decisive run by the Crimson put the game away.
In the first set, Harvard led by three, 16-13, before wrapping things up with a solid 9-4 run. In the second, despite at one point leading 17-7, the Crimson needed to surge and take the final four points behind Branden Clemens’ serving after the Pioneers had brought things back to 21-18.
Once again in the third, a close-fought set came to a close after Harvard ended the match with an 8-3 run down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
Throughout the match, Harvard’s blocking put tremendous pressure on the home team. Senior Kyle Rehkemper paced the Crimson with six total blocks, keeping the Pioneers at bay.
“Our blocking was really good,” Madden said. “We got a lot of blocks and especially a lot of solo blocks. Kyle [Rehkemper] had a great game, DJ [White] had a great game hitting, and Caleb [Zimmick] had a great game hitting over the middle. All around, we played a pretty good game, but especially our blocking was the key.”
Even with the win, there were areas that Harvard will look to improve in the coming weeks as it continues conference play.
“Mainly it’s all small things [we need to work on],” Clemens said. “Little execution errors—little things that we know how to do and that we do in practice, but we need to reinforce it so you automatically do it in the game. We’ll figure it out in practice.”
Harvard coach Brian Baise has altered his team’s practices to better simulate the conditions of a live contest. Increasing the intensity in practice has the twin purpose of reducing in-game errors and augmenting the players’ competitive energy.
“Coach has changed the structure of practice and has made a lot of the drills super competitive, putting us in high pressure and high intensity situations,” Madden said. “In the game, we came out a little more fired up, and that got us off to a great start.”
“The aggression and the overall sense of energy has been really good,” Clemens said. “We were kind of reinvigorated and were very pumped to get our first conference win, and I think that will continue into this week.”
The team will be looking to take that energy forward as it faces two tough opponents in Princeton and George Mason at home this Thursday and Friday. Both teams made the EIVA playoffs last season and will be a stern test of the Crimson’s mettle.
“We have two wins on our record now, and it was good to get our first win in the league. But we’re not going to get a big head,” Madden said. “We have two great teams coming to our place on Thursday and Friday. Both of them are very good this year, and we’re fully focused on them right now.”
—Staff writer Julian Ryan can be reached at email@example.com.
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