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Heading into the final set, Sacred Heart and Harvard (5-7, 3-4 EIVA) were deadlocked in a tie with two sets a piece.
The Crimson had started off strong with back-to-back wins of 25-23 and 25-19 before falling to the Pioneers (12-3, 5-2 EIVA) in the next two sets by scores of 25-19 and 25-17.
With this back-and-forth narrative as prologue, the decisive fifth set fell in favor of Sacred Heart, as the Pioneers triumphed in a 15-10 tiebreaker.
“I think we were doing really well the first two games,” co-captain Casey White said. “We just let off the gas pedal a little bit in the third game. Volleyball is a game of momentum, so giving them a game where we lose by upwards of eight points gives them all the momentum. It being a home game for them definitely helps swing the momentum their way.”
The fourth-set loss of 25-17 began with Sacred Heart leading the Crimson by seven points in the first half. Despite Harvard rallying back to come within six points of its opposition, the visitors ultimately fell short.
Previously in the third set, the Pioneers had built up their momentum by limiting the Crimson attack to a .207 hitting percentage, versus Sacred Heart’s mark of .452.
“We were determined not to let the break bother us,” coach Brian Baise said. “They played really good defense, [and] we had a really tough time scoring. The momentum shifted, and then we just never came back. We played a great first two sets. We went into break and just didn’t look like the same team after.”
The final set saw Harvard and the Pioneers go neck-and-neck for the first eight points, resulting in four points each, until Sacred Heart scored three times in a row to break free from the deadlock. Despite a last-ditch attempt by White with four kills, the Crimson ended the game with three straight lost sets in a row.
“They brought in a new setter who was switching up the looks from what we were getting used to in the first two games,” White said. “I think it was on our side. We didn’t play clean, and a lot of balls that we were putting away in the first two games, they started defending. You start to get a little frustrated when you can’t put the ball down like you were before, so we were a little frustrated. That affected our play a little bit.”
White now sits in second place in the all-time record book for career digs with 576 after this past weekend; he recently surpassed his own brother, D.J. White ‘15, who tallied 556 digs. White actually recorded 21 digs in the game against the Pioneers last year, slotting him in for third place all time in number of digs in a match.
“I think Casey, Chase [Howard] and Erik [Johnsson] did really well,” Baise said. “The focus of the last two or three weeks has been offense, and we will continue to focus on that.”
Harvard started off the game strong, leading Sacred Heart by one point consistently for the first 23 points. Multiple kills from freshman Matthew Ctvrtlik gave the Crimson the lead and finally allowed Harvard to clinch the set point.
Continuing its lead, Harvard went up 11-7 in the second set before the Pioneers caught up, tying the score at 13. Freshman Erik Johnsson aided the Crimson by winning four of the last six points for Harvard, allowing the Crimson to take the set 25-19.
Still, those early heroics could not save Harvard from its ultimate fate—a five-set conference loss that generated heartbreak, if also flashes of promise.
“Hitting percentages have been up the last couple matches, and we have been feeling good about things,” Baise said. “We’ve had a couple of really good weekends in a row…. We have to go out and see if we can find our rhythm again as well as our confidence.”
—Staff writer Amanda X. Fang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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