Following a road loss to Yale, Harvard traveled back home to take on Dartmouth on Friday. This game began the Crimson’s stretch of playing each Ancient Eight team another time as the team continues its quest for the conference title.
Harvard recovered from losing in an early season battle against Dartmouth, three sets to two. Following a close first set, the Crimson (9-8, 4-4 Ivy) took control against the Big Green (7-11, 3-5), winning the next three games to take the match.
In the first set, Harvard came out slow, trading points with Dartmouth. The Big Green began to pull away, at one point leading 19-13, but the Crimson capitalized on Dartmouth errors, two aces from sophomore outside/defensive specialist Sandra Zeng, and a kill from captain Christina Cornelius to bring the set within two points. Even with this effort, the visitors took the set, 25-22.
According to Cornelius, the first set provided a springboard for the rest of the game as the team wanted to continue the fight against the Big Green.
“Although we started off pretty slow, we got our momentum in the second game which was really good. We got super energetic,” Cornelius said. “We had a good pep talk after that first game and I think it just gave us the confidence and the motivation to push harder, be louder and be confident.”
The second set also began with the back-and-forth seen earlier. Led by junior outside hitter Grace Roberts Burbank, freshman setter and outside hitter Bella Almanza and Cornelius, Harvard overtook Dartmouth, outscoring the Big Green 10-4 to finish the set. The trio combined for four kills and Almanza recorded three assists on the stretch.
From the outset of the third set, the Crimson dominated the Big Green, causing errors at the line and at the net. The team in turn capitalized on these errors, as its defense and offense worked cohesively to collect both 13 kills and the set, 25-21.
“We also had really tough serves that got them out of system so we were able to run our own transition game and get them out of system,” Cornelius said. “So I think that also worked very well for us today. It is an amazing feeling when our defense and our offense all comes together.”
This cohesion continued into the fourth set, in which Harvard set the tone early as the team permanently gained the lead with a score of 5-4. The entire court attacked the ball throughout the set with six different Crimson players recording kills. This Harvard offensive attack propelled the team to defeat Dartmouth by 10 in the final set. According to Cornelius, the team has utilized practice to bolster these efforts to have a cohesive team where the defense and the offense work together.
“It just repetition and repetition in practice and just making sure that hitters are giving good feedback to the setters and the setters receive it,” Cornelius said. “We make sure that we extend ourselves outside of our range and we get balls that we don’t think that we can get.”
Following this win over Dartmouth, the Crimson will continue to play the other six Ivy League teams. According to Cornelius, with the transition into the second half of the season the team is already comfortable with the tendencies of their opponents.
“We have a better read on all of the teams since we have actually played them before,” Cornelius said. “We can’t wait to use everything that we have got in practice.”
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