For several precious seconds on Wednesday night, the final point of the Harvard men’s volleyball season did not seem final.
A moment ago, with George Mason holding a 2-1 set lead, the Patriots (15-12, 7-5 EIVA) had served for match point and the possibility of securing a spot in the EIVA tournament final. The Crimson (13-12, 7-5) had controlled the ball. Sophomore outside hitter Casey White had risen up for the spike.
Then, in the eyes of many Harvard players, the ball had ricocheted off the George Mason block and out of bounds, meaning a 25-25 tie, a resumed match, and a surviving hope for a league title.
But the referee had seen otherwise. He pointed to the Patriots’ side of the court and awarded the point.
For George Mason, the decision secured a spot in the league championship. For the Crimson, the decision ended the game, the match, and the season.
“That was a hard way to lose,” Harvard coach Brian Baise said. “It shouldn’t have been that close in the fourth set anyway.”
The last point came just a few minutes after Harvard held the momentum in the gym. Despite dropping the first two games, the Crimson had clawed back to take the third and lead 20-18 in the fourth.
Then came a 5-1 run from the Patriots, a back-and-forth sequence to send the frame into a tiebreaker, and an irreversible referee decision.
“It’s always tough to lose on a call like that,” junior outside hitter Branden Clemens said. “But we showed a lot of character in working through all the adversity.”
The opening of the first set prefigured this level of competitiveness, as the two teams played to an even 9-9 tie until George Mason took control with a 4-1 run. The margin held the rest of the way, as the Patriots finished with a 25-18 set victory.
As he did throughout the evening, outside hitter Jack Wilson led the attack for George Mason. The redshirt sophomore ended with 26 kills, including six in that opening game.
“They came out hot, and we came out flat,” Baise said. “I’m not sure why that was.”
However, Harvard overcame this barrage in the third set. Facing a 2-0 set hole, the Crimson opened the frame by winning the first two points. Harvard built an 18-13 lead and then traded points the rest of the way to win, 25-19.
In the frame, the Crimson managed a game-high killing percentage of .353. But Harvard hit to an overall mark of .254, topped by 14 kills from co-captain D.J. White and Clemens.
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