Nearly one month ago, Harvard women’s volleyball easily handed rivals Penn and Princeton straight-set losses. In that critical weekend sweep, the Crimson not only shut both the Quakers and the Tigers out, but also snapped Penn’s four-match winning streak.
The Crimson (10-8, 6-2 Ivy) will look to repeat its performance from four weeks ago as it travels first to take on Penn (9-11, 3-5), followed by the Tigers (9-8, 4-4) for the second time this season.
The Crimson looks to maintain its shared position with Dartmouth atop the Ivy League rankings after a pivotal three-set victory over the Big Green last weekend. In this millennium, no team has won the Ivy League title with more than two losses within the conference.
“I think we’re all really satisfied with the way we played [Dartmouth],” freshman Christina Cornelius said. “It was a really successful game.”
With two losses already under its belt, every game for Harvard counts.
“I think the most important thing for us is to play to our tempo,” said senior outside hitter Kathleen Wallace. “We have a pretty fast offense, so focusing on every person working towards whatever goal will be the key to beating Penn and Princeton.”
Wallace played a critical role in ousting both teams earlier this season. While the senior led Harvard with 13 kills, Penn’s top scorers, seniors Alexis Genske and Alex Caldwell, notched 13 combined. The last time the Crimson took on the Quakers, Penn showed a season-low performance in both hitting percentage and kills.
Since then, Caldwell has proven a dangerous offensive force. In the Quakers’ game against Princeton last week, Caldwell recorded a team-high of 11 kills, reaching double-digits for the fifth time this season.
The Quakers have had a hard time securing victories this season, however. Winning only one of its five matches since its matchup against the Crimson, Penn is currently tied with Columbia for sixth place in the conference.
Princeton, on the other hand, has lost only one of its past four matchups and stands at a tie for fourth place in the league. After its most recent victory over Penn, two Tigers—freshman setter Claire Nussbaum and senior outside Kendall Peterkin—received Ivy League honors for outstanding individual play. Nussbaum recorded career highs in both assists and digs, while Peterkin claimed 22 kills, marking her 14th match with more than 20 kills.
Peterkin is a well-known offensive powerhouse for Princeton and is currently riding a wave of momentum after the team’s last game. The two-time All-Ivy League honors recipient earned her 14th 20+ kill tally of her career against the Quakers.
In Princeton’s last faceoff with Harvard, Peterkin managed only eight kills, less than her average of 13 kills per game at the time. But this time around, she may prove to be a force to be reckoned with on the court.
Harvard’s own improving offensive play will attempt to counteract strong showings from Penn and Princeton.
“I think our team is very athletic,” Wallace said. “We’ve been able to push our offense in a way that we haven’t before previously, so that’s definitely been a strength of our team.”
The Crimson tied its season low in attack errors last weekend, ending the game with a hitting percentage of 30 percent compared to Dartmouth’s eight percent. The week before, Corie Bain recorded her fifth triple-double of the season, and Wallace registered her second-straight double-double.
“We’ve been doing a really good job of staying engaged, staying really focused and making quick play,” Wallace said.
To add to its strength on the offensive side, the team has been working on increasing communication between the front row and the back row. The squad’s mental acumen and focus will come under the microscope as the season winds down.
“We’re really excited, ready to do our best, and overall I think we’re ready for the road ahead,” Wallace said.
Women's Volleyball Drops Ivy Opener to Dartmouth in Five SetsAfter taking the first set of its Ivy League opener by a commanding margin, the Crimson only managed to take one of the next four, falling to Dartmouth in five sets in the first match of a five-game homestand at the Malkin Athletic Center on Friday.
Women Look To Continue Hot Streak on Trip to Columbia, CornellThe Harvard women’s volleyball team accomplished everything that it had to do this weekend to keep pace with the top teams in the Ivy League. The embattled squad first took down a pesky Brown unit that dealt the Crimson one of its two conference losses last season in a five-set nailbiter.
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