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Women's Volleyball Loses Nail-Biter at Dartmouth

Freshman Bella Almanza stretches to hit a ball
Harvard women’s volleyball dropped its first Ivy League contest of the season to Dartmouth in a back-and-forth battle that ultimately ended the Crimson’s four-game winning streak.  

The hard-fought match went the distance, with set scores of 26-24, 21-25, 25-21, 17-25, and 15-17. The Big Green (5-6, 1-0) got its revenge on Harvard, as the Crimson (5-5, 0-1 Ivy)  defeated the Big Green in both matchups last season for a two-game sweep. Harvard has historically handled the the Big Green well; despite its loss Friday, the Crimson is 51-22 all-time against its Hanover rivals.

The fourth set was hardly a true blowout, but it set the stage for the tie-breaking duel, in which Dartmouth held a slight edge for most of the way.  Harvard clawed back to knot the score at 12-12, and a kill by junior middle blocker Maclaine Fields gave the the Crimson women the lead. The Crimson held on until 15-14, but the Big Green reeled off a 3-0 run capped by an ace by Cox to win the set and the match in a hard-fought heartbreaker for the losing side.

Senior middle blocker Christina Cornelius posted a stellar performance against Dartmouth almost exactly a year prior to Friday’s showdown. She was impressive in Hanover, NH. again, notching her second double-double of the season with 14 digs and 14 kills.  The Los Angeles, Calif., native earned All-Ivy first team honors last season and is on her way to another strong campaign this year. Fellow Californian Fields also delivered for Harvard, narrowly missing out on a double-double with 14 kills and nine blocks.  The junior tied her career high in the latter category. Freshman setter Bella Almanza continued a good start to the season, racking up a season-high 43 assists and 10 digs.

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Senior libero Anna Uhr, who paced last year’s squad in both total digs (283) and dig/set average (3.18), led the way against the Big Green with 19 digs.  Junior outside hitter Grace Roberts Burbank and sophomore outside hitter Mindie Mabry both turned in solid showings, tallying 10 and nine digs, respectively, and co-captain Brooke Istvan recorded a career-high 13 digs.

Harvard got off to a shaky start as Dartmouth came out firing on all cylinders to claim a 13-4 lead.  The Crimson recovered quickly, though, and climbed back into the set, forcing the Big Green to use a timeout with the score at 21-15.  The pause proved ineffective for Dartmouth, as Harvard continued its roll and cut the deficit to one point at 24-23. A clutch Marbry kill brought the Crimson even, and another two points later clinched the victory.  

The second set was as close as the first, and the Ivy League foes dueled to a 20-20 standoff.  Harvard took the lead on a bad set by Dartmouth junior defensive specialist Maddy Schoenberger, but the Big Green immediately called a timeout, and this one had its intended effect.  The break catalyzed a set-sealing 5-0 run for Dartmouth, including a dagger ace from junior right side hitter Corinne Cox.

In the third clash of the night, the Crimson controlled nearly wire to wire, opening up an 18-12 at one point.  Dartmouth ripped off five unanswered points late in the set, but Harvard shut the door on an ace from Mabry to take a 2-1 lead in sets.

The Crimson was within two points at 7-9 in the fourth set, but the Big Green then opened its advantage to 13-7 and never looked back, maintaining at least a four-point lead for the rest of the set on the way to securing a 25-17 win.  

Harvard will look to bounce back over the weekend, when it takes on Cornell and Columbia.  A rematch with Dartmouth is set for October 19, and both teams are certain to come out firing.

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