This weekend, the Harvard men’s volleyball team traveled to Illinois to face off against two of the nation’s top teams. The Crimson fell to No. 5 Lewis, 3-1, on Friday and top-ranked Loyola, 3-0, on Saturday in the team’s first two matches of the season.
The Flyers (4-1, 2-0 MIVA) and Ramblers (3-0) came to Cambridge last season and beat Harvard (0-2) by the same scores, but junior outside hitter Branden Clemens could see the improvement, especially against Lewis.
“Our Friday match against Lewis was really good and very competitive,” Clemens said. “I think it was good getting to see that compared to last year, we played a lot better. After the first set last year, we kind of fell apart. I thought it was really good [this year] seeing us compete, especially since it was our first match of the season.”
LOYOLA 3, HARVARD 0
Saturday’s match proved to be a Loyola sweep despite two close sets between the hosts and the Crimson. In the first set, the two teams went back and forth, with neither team holding more than a three-point advantage. After alternating ten straight points, the Ramblers picked up the last two to salvage a 25-23 victory. Loyola had 16 kills to Harvard’s 11 in the first frame.
In the second set, the Ramblers jumped out to a 12-6 lead and took the set, 25-17. Down 2-0, the Crimson jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the third that it would never retain. Despite a late charge from the Crimson, Loyola was able to hang on to win, 25-22.
“[Saturday] was a really tough match against a very good team,” Clemens said. “They’re number one in the country for a reason. I thought we were close to them, we almost took the first set. I thought for us, getting to play the number-one ranked team in the country, we played really well. There were some things we could have done better, but on the whole, we gave them a really good fight and it shows promise for the rest of the season.”
The Crimson had 30 kills for the game, while the Ramblers finished with 50. Sophomore outside hitter Casey White tied for the team lead with seven kills and led Harvard with seven digs. Freshman setter Marko Kostich, playing in his second collegiate game, had 27 assists. Fellow first-year Brad Gretsch had seven kills from the middle blocker position.
“[Brad] played really well,” co-captain Caleb Zimmick said. “He definitely stepped up and was a consistent force in the middle, closed a lot of blocks, and had a lot of timely kills. Marko really played well [on Saturday]. It’s hard coming in as a freshman and connecting with all the hitters, but I think he handled it well.”
LEWIS 3, HARVARD 1
The Crimson started the season off on Friday by winning the first set against the Flyers before dropping the next three. The team was led by the brothers White—Casey recorded 13 kills and 14 digs, while co-captain DJ had 12 and seven respectively.
The first set was tied 25-25 and in the ensuing tiebreaker, a service error by Lewis senior outside hitter Geoff Powell and blocks by Clemens and Gretsch gave Harvard a 27-25 victory. The Crimson jumped out to an early lead in the second set before the hosts won 10 of the final 16 points to claim a 25-16 victory. Harvard dropped the third set, 25-21, and the fourth, 25-20.
“I wasn’t exactly sure how we were going to come out, but we played really well right away,” Zimmick said. “It was encouraging to see, just because we have younger guys on the court. Taking the first step against Lewis in their gym [where] they had a huge crowd, it was very exciting. It definitely set the tone for the team we can be and the team we want to be going forward.”
—Staff writer Stephen Gleason can be reached at email@example.com.
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