Hardworking, high-energy, and hungry—the Harvard men’s volleyball team may have earned a number of H-flavored praises last Saturday, but “hospitable” was not one of them.
Hosting Sacred Heart at the Malkin Athletic Center, the Crimson thrashed the visitors, 3-0, to strengthen a hold on second place in the EIVA. Harvard is now two games behind league-leading Penn State, which has won 17 straight conference titles.
“I don’t think we’ve had a start like this since my freshman year,” senior outside hitter Alec Schlossman said. “We’re feeling really good right now.”
Midway through the third set, with the Crimson trailing 17-13, the Pioneers’ Doug Dzema held the ball, and Sacred Heart held the momentum.
Minutes before Harvard had sported an 11-9 lead, the beneficiaries of three consecutive errors by Sacred Heart.
But the Pioneers had closed the gap and seized the lead. On the strength of three straight kills, Sacred Heart had opened up a four-point advantage and hushed the Harvard crowd—which was the reason that Dzema was behind the line right now, preparing for his third serve.
As a matter of fact, it turned out to be the junior’s final serve of the game. Harvard fielded the ball, junior outside hitter Casey White smashed it over the net, and that energetic response was all the prodding that the Crimson needed.
Capitalizing on a bevy of Pioneers errors, Harvard used an 8-1 stretch to take control. The frame ended at 25-21, with captain Branden Clemens clinching the match with a kill.
“Last night was a good game,” Clemens said. “We were playing some really good team defense.”
Harvard outside hitter Casey White was a star on the afternoon, setting a career high with 21 digs. He also contributed nine kills on a 47.1 hitting percentage.
Yet White received help from many teammates, with the offense posting a kill rate a smidgen below 40 percent and the defense putting up 13 blocks. Five players recorded seven or more kills, and Clemens topped the balanced attack with 11 overall.
“They’re a very good defensive team,” Schlossman said. “But we knew that as long as our serve-receive stayed strong and we were in system for most of the game, then we shouldn’t have a problem on the offensive end.”
Nowhere was the team effort more effective than at the start of the second frame, when sophomore outside hitter Brad Gretsch served the Crimson through a 6-0 run.
Although the Pioneers responded with a 5-0 run of their own, Harvard never relinquished the lead, completing a 25-21 win with a kill by freshman middle blocker Trevor Dow.
Throughout the season, middle blockers have put up efficient offensive numbers for the Crimson, and Saturday proved no different.
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