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After winning last week’s contest against Dartmouth to open the second half of its conference slate, the Crimson was unable to keep the momentum rolling, dropping both of its weekend games and officially falling out of contention for the Ivy League title after earning a share of the top spot the last two seasons.
“We played hard,” Harvard coach Jennifer Weiss said. “We were really disciplined. It just came down to a few points.”
PRINCETON 3, HARVARD 2
Entering Saturday’s contest against the Crimson, Princeton had won its last 25 sets against Ivy League opponents.
The Tigers had not dropped a set in Ivy League play since Sept. 24, when it lost the fourth set to Penn in its five-set victory in the conference opener.
That changed on Saturday afternoon.
While the Crimson eventually fell to the Tigers, Harvard forced a five-set match—a moral victory for a squad filled with promising youth that will be tasked with bringing the Crimson back to title contention in the years upcoming.
Harvard had a chance to steal the fifth set away from Princeton to hand the Tigers their first loss of the conference season. Down 10-8, co-captain Corie Bain sent a strike over the net to close the deficit to one. But two kills, two Harvard errors, and a Tigers’ block sealed the fate of the Crimson.
“We kept our composure,” Weiss said. “That’s what you have to do. Volleyball’s such a game of momentum. For that to be such a battle, it’s one of those ones you could be proud of.”
Facing the possibility of a two-set deficit earlier in the match—trailing 23-22 in the second-set—sophomore Christina Cornelius registered two straight kills to give the Crimson a one-point advantage. Freshman libero Isabelle Tashima commenced the next point with her serve, which Cara Mattaliano was unable to return, officially hand Princeton its first set loss in over a month.
“Realizing if a team earns a point you earn one right back, that’s exactly how we have to play all the time,” Weiss said. “So when you can get them to dial in and do that, we’ll find success, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Cara Mattaliano—who is currently leading the conference in kills per set with more than three-and-a-half, and, as a result, is a presumed favorite to repeat as Ivy League Player of the Year—was a driving force of the Princeton attack. She teamed up with Maggie O’Connell for 39 combined kills.
Bain provided the offensive spark for the Crimson on Saturday. She recorded 20 kills on 43 total attacks, which was a season high for the three-time All-Ivy First Team member. Cornelius followed right behind with 14 kills while adding a block and four block assists as well.
“Corie played awesome, aggressive,” Weiss said. “Everyone stayed aggressive. We stuck with our defensive system. We did a lot of great things.”
PENN 3, HARVARD 0
The narrative of Harvard’s season has been that it has been able to hang around with most teams, but has been prone to falling just short at the end of matches. The story continued on Friday.
In all three sets in the straight-set loss to the Quakers, the Crimson found itself down 20-19. Despite being in contention in the late stages of each frame, Harvard wasn’t able to take a set from Penn. From that point on, the Quakers outscored the Crimson 15-9 to, for the time being, force a tie between the two teams at fourth place in the Ivy League standings.
After losing the first two sets of the match, the Crimson jumped out to an 11-4 lead behind kills from four different players in hopes of jumpstarting a three-set comeback. But within a few points, that lead shrank to one behind six straight points from the Quakers. From there, the teams traded points until the Quakers eventually pulled away, 25-22.
Freshman Grace Roberts Burbank led the offensive attack for Harvard in both total attacks and kills, tallying 22 and 11, respectively. Courtney Quinn of the Quakers led both teams with 13 kills.
Cornelius and freshman Maclaine Fields played a major role at the net, tallying six and five block assists on the night, which were both their second-highest outputs of the season. Bain and sophomore Jocelyn Meyer also contributed four and three, respectively.
—Staff writer Kurt T. Bullard can be reached at email@example.com.
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