CORNELL 3, HARVARD 1
Before the game even started, there was a water leak in the Malkin Athletic Center that delayed the start of the match. Beginning the match an hour after the intended start time appeared to have Harvard (10-9, 5-5 Ivy) out of its groove, as the hosts did not have the offensive display it had in its game the day before against Columbia (9-11, 3-7).
“It started weird with the leak in the ceiling," said senior setter Brooke Istvan after the game. "I don’t know if we really recovered from that. I don’t think we came out as strong as we could have.”
After falling in back-and-forth opening set 25-19, the Crimson were able to rally some momentum and tie the match 1-1 with a 25-23 victory in the second set. However, Harvard was unable to capitalize off its strong second set take a lead and lost the next two sets 25-19 and 25-15.
During the first set, it was evident that the Crimson were phased by the late start that happened because of the water leak. They were missing serves and could not get into an offensive flow. After keeping it tight during the early part of the set, Harvard was put into a late deficit that it could not get out of.
A key substitution after the first set, switching out sophomore Evelyn Gray with senior Jocelyn Meyer, led to a strong second set from the Crimson, where there offense was more reminiscent of how they played against Columbia the previous day.
“We had a change in mentality and definitely wanted to win more,” remarked Istvan on the momentum change in the second set.
Harvard was not able to keep up this momentum in the third and fourth sets. After losing the third set, the Big Red (11-8, 7-3) came out with potent attack in the fourth set and jumped to a 19-7 lead. The Crimson had dug themselves too deep a hole, and after a small comeback attempt in the fourth set, the team ultimately fell 25-15 and lost the match.
Despite a disappointing end result, the Crimson still had offensive bright spots throughout the game. Senior middle blocker Christina Cornelius had a team high 11 kills while junior middle blocker Maclaine Fields recorded a team best .300 hitting percentage. On the defensive side, senior libero Anna Uhr and sophomore outside specialist Sandra Zeng, had 12 and 11 digs respectively.
HARVARD 3, COLUMBIA 0
Harvard was able to defeat Columbia in three tightly contested sets as a result of its strong defensive performance. The score of the match was tied 21 times, including 11 knots in the first set alone. The Crimson held Columbia to .101 hitting percentage and did not allow the Lions to acquire an offensive rhythm of any sort.
The defense was led by senior Anna Uhr who continued to lead the back court with 14 digs in this match. She was aided by sophomore Evelyn Gray, junior Maclaine Fields, and senior Christina Cornelius who had six, five, and four block assists respectively. The six block assists were a career-high for Gray, who has been a stalwart on the defensive side for Harvard this season.
Along with its stout defense, Columbia did not have an answer for the Crimson’s strong attack. Harvard’s offense was led by junior Grace Roberts Burbank, who had nine kills and a career-high .500 attack percentage. The San Francisco native had a nearly flawless game as she registered only one error. Cornelius and Gray, key contributors to the Crimson’s stifling defense, also had stellar contributions to the Crimson’s offense, each recording eight kills.
Harvard’s versatility on both sides of the court overwhelmed Columbia from start to finish, resulting in a crushing third set where they secured 14 kills to hit at a .294 clip. Freshman Bella Almanza’s performance was indicative of the Crimson’s versatility as she almost recorded a double-double with 29 assists and nine digs. Her presence on both the offensive and defensive side was a spark plug for Harvard’s victory on Friday.
“We came out pretty strong against Columbia and did what we had to do,” Istvan said.
Next week, Harvard will enjoys its last two home games of the season, where they look to finish strong against Yale and Brown.
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