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So far this season, the Harvard women’s volleyball team has played back-to-back conference games on five different weekends.
But even after this past weekend’s slate of games, the Crimson has yet to complete a weekend sweep.
After handling Cornell in Ithaca in a decisive manner on Friday, Harvard was unable to repeat its success in the Big Apple, succumbing to Columbia in a four-set match.
COLUMBIA 3, HARVARD 1
After losing the first set, Harvard (7-14, 5-7 Ivy) held a 24-23 lead in the late stages of the second set. But on the Crimson’s first set point, the Lions’ Anja Malesevic put a kill past the Crimson defense to equalize the game. A kill from co-captain Corie Bain would give Harvard its second set point right away, but again, Malesevic recorded another kill to extend the match.
Columbia (13-9, 8-4) was bending, not breaking. And for a Crimson squad that has had trouble closing out sets, it seemed like the Lions were ready to pounce on Harvard’s inability to convert a set point and ready to take a two-set advantage.
But then it was Harvard who continued to prolong the set. After an attacking error, junior Paige Kebe knotted the game up at 26 points apiece. Then it was sophomore Jocelyn Meyer, who, on Columbia’s second set point, delivered to bring about a 27-all tie.
The two teams went about trading points until a Malesevic error and a Bain kill gave Harvard a 32-30 permanent advantage.
“I’m pretty proud of how we stayed composed and relaxed and were able to perform under pressure,” Kebe said. “And it just shows how much we’ve grown this season. Especially having a lot of freshmen and younger girls on the court, it’s really good for them to be exposed to that pressure.”
But in a similar situation in the next set, the Crimson was unable to continue its momentum at Levien Gymnasium. Harvard staved off two set points from Columbia, but its inability to convert its one set point of the frame proved costly, as the third set point was the charm for the Lions. The Crimson failed to return Kalie Wool’s serve, giving the Lions a 2-1 advantage.
From there, Columbia rolled through the fourth set without much resistance, winning the last frame by 11 points and bringing its record this conference season to 8-4—already three wins better than last year’s finish.
“It was a little more disappointing,” Kebe said. “That’s a game we also could have won.”
Bain and sophomore Christina Cornelius led the charge offensively for the Crimson, recording 14 and 12 kills, respectively. Bain also added 15 assists and 12 digs for her sixth triple-double of the year.
HARVARD 3, CORNELL 1
Entering this weekend, Harvard had lost its first set eight times in conference play. Only two times had it been able to recover from that deficit.
Friday made it three.
“I think losing the first match was a bit of a wake-up call,” Kebe said. “We treated it like more of a warm-up set than we should have.”
With one set to each team entering the third frame, Cornell quickly jumped out to a 6-0 lead behind five service aces from Natalie Danenhauer.
“There’s no reason for any more than two points in a rotation,” Harvard coach Jennifer Weiss said last weekend. “So when we get them to dial in and do that, we’ll have success.”
But the Crimson stormed back almost immediately with six straight of its own behind two kills from Bain and a kill apiece from Kebe and freshman Grace Roberts Burbank. From there, the Crimson rolled on, ending the set on a 11-4 run to push ahead by one set entering the fourth frame.
It was the freshmen who sealed the deal in the fourth set, as an ace from Erin McCarthy and kills from Burbank and Maclaine Fields ended the Big Red’s night. Bain led all Crimson with 10 kills, while Meyer set a season-high with nine on the night.
“I think the Cornell game went pretty well,” Kebe said. “It was one we definitely expected to win. I think we did a good job of performing and executing our game plan.”
Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Princeton suffered its first loss to a conference opponent at the
hands of Yale on Friday, cutting the Tigers’ lead over the Bulldogs to just one game with one more weekend to play.
–Staff writer Kurt T. Bullard can be reached at email@example.com.
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