When, on November 14, 2015, Harvard freshman middle blocker Jocelyn Meyer delivered the final kill to beat Brown in Providence, R.I., the crowd of 276 erupted in noise. For the second straight season, players and fans could celebrate something rare: a share of an Ivy League title.
Fifty-four miles away, in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard men’s volleyball team was staging a celebration of its own after following the game on the Ivy League Digital Network.
“As soon as they won, we made sure to text them and congratulate them,” said senior outside hitter Branden Clemens. “They actually came straight back from Brown, and then we hung out as one big program and celebrated their success.”
While the two teams have different seasons--the women play in the fall and the men in the spring–they also have a lot in common.
They share a gym, a lot of physical height, and an assistant coach in Jeff Aucoin, but they also share a mutual love for each other that bonds the two programs even beyond their shared sport. This unique connection permeates classes and continues to grow as new athletes join the teams.
“We have a mutual respect that is initially started when we come in as freshmen because we see our upperclassmen bond with each other,” said Corie Bain, a junior setter for the women’s team. “It has just been a very easy way to have a group of guys that really [looks] out for you.”
Connections run deep between these two teams, with multiple relationships starting before players even don crimson. Bain and men’s junior outside hitter Casey White went to the same high school; women’s sophomore outside hitter Michaela Dews and men’s sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter Brad Gretsch played for the same Coast Volleyball Club in California.
But similar backgrounds aren’t the only reason for the close alliance. The teams have a strong tradition of shared experiences outside the court. The first social of the fall semester and the last social of the spring semester are always together.
“As we get new players each year, and [the women’s team] gets new players each year, we definitely try to make an effort to get to know them and be as friendly and welcoming as we can be,” Clemens said. “I think that it betters the student-athlete experience to have that support.”
This year, on the women’s senior night, an unprompted gentlemanly gesture revealed the depth of the two teams’ relationship.
The men’s team couldn’t make it to the women’s match, so to show their support they left roses and notes in front of the four seniors’ lockers expressing how proud they were and how much they valued their four years together as members of the Harvard volleyball program.
“[That] was kind of the epitome of our relationship to me,” women’s co-captain Caroline Holte said. “Just constant support for each other.”
The support truly is constant, as the teams have locker rooms in the Malkin Athletic Center that are right next to each other. Sometimes the two squads blast music through the shared walls, engaging in a friendly competition to drown out the other’s beats.
In addition, the separate seasons mean that the men are able to work the women’s home games and vice versa. Players will scoop up balls and manage the scorebook and the scoreboard.
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