In a dramatic weekend on the road, the Harvard women’s volleyball team came up short in multiple five-set contests, dropping both of its games to Columbia and Cornell.
After a heartbreaking back-and-forth affair with the Lions (8-10, 3-6 Ivy League) on Friday night, the Crimson’s comeback attempt against the Big Red (10-9, 6-4) after going down two sets came up just short.
“We put up a really good fight this weekend, and I’m really proud of the team and the way we fought,” sophomore setter Erin McCarthy said.
CORNELL 3, HARVARD 2
In its second five-set matchup of the weekend, Harvard’s late comeback against Cornell ultimately was not enough, evening the season series at 1-1.
The Big Red jumped to an early lead, grabbing the first four points of the contest. The Crimson (11-8, 6-4) would not lead the entire set as Cornell rode this energy, taking the set 25-16.
Although Harvard struck first in the second set, the Big Red would take an early 4-3 lead and never looked back. This lead would last the entire set, with the Crimson unable to keep up and dropping the set 25-19.
Harvard, however, showed it had fight left in the must-win third set. The battle was close the entire set, seeing multiple lead changes as neither team was able to pull away. With a 23-21 lead, the Crimson would end the set on two straight kills from captain Christina Cornelius to force a fourth set.
“We didn’t start really playing until the third game, but when we did, we did a great job,” Cornelius said. “We had a lot of grit, and we were fighting for our season there.”
Cornell attempted to end the game without playing a fifth set, taking an early 6-2 lead, but Harvard’s important four-point run prevented a runaway that would have ended the night early. The teams went back and forth throughout the set until a kill from senior outside hitter Paige Kebe won the set, 25-22, and took the contest to a decisive fifth set.
“We came out slow, but in the third game we dug in and put up a really good fight to turn it around,” sophomore setter Erin McCarthy said. “It was one of the best comebacks we’ve had so far.”
Despite blowing its two set lead, the Big Red would not allow the Crimson to complete its comeback. Harvard never lead in the final set, as Cornell held off Harvard’s resurgence by taking the set, 15-11, handing the Crimson its second five-set loss of a climactic weekend.
COLUMBIA 3, HARVARD 2
Harvard struck first in the neck-and-neck battle, taking the first set 25-18 due to an impressive run late in the set. Leading 19-17, the Crimson took control of the set, scoring six of the next seven points, capped off by a block from Cornelius and junior middle blocker Jocelyn Meyer.
Columbia fought back in the second set. The margin between the two squads did not exceed four points in the close contest, and ultimately the Lions were able to come out on top. Columbia capitalized on its opportunities, landing four service aces in the second set alone.
The third set proved even closer, with Harvard and the Lions fighting neck-and-neck the entire set. After the two teams traded points to make the score 21-20 the Crimson, Harvard would not allow Columbia to put up any more points in the set, going on a four-point run to take a 2-1 lead over the Lions.
The fourth set would prove the most competitive. The Crimson would take an early lead and was up by as many as eight points. However, Columbia did not roll over, slowly chipping away to even the score at 21-21 thanks to multiple runs. With the game knotted up late at 23-23, the Lions stole the last two points and took the close set 25-23, sending the game to a winner-take-all fifth set.
“It was a roller coaster, and the whole time we couldn’t really get a steady rhythm,” Cornelius said.
Harvard would not lead again in the matchup, as Columbia kept its momentum from its fourth set comeback, jumping to an early 5-0 lead. The Lions retained control of the set, eventually taking the set 15-11 and thus the matchup 3-2.
Despite seeing double digit kills from five players, including a team-leading 14 kills from sophomore outside hitter Grace Roberts Burbank, the Crimson was unable to overcome Columbia’s late momentum that ultimately gave the Lions the game.
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