Conference Domination


Volleyball takes down Princeton and George Mason in one weekend.

Happy Moose (Courtesy of Henry Dunster Moose)
Happy Moose (Courtesy of Henry Dunster Moose)

Last year, the Harvard Men’s Volleyball team was coming off their best season in program history. One in which they reached the conference championship before losing in heartbreaking fashion to Penn State University. So it’s safe to say that they entered this season with high hopes.

The team improved their roster by adding Casey White, a Fab Fifty recruit and brother to current senior DJ White, along with the very good setter Nick Bendell. Sam Murphy walked onto the team, bringing the new player total up to three.
Led by senior captains Nick Madden and Chris Gibbons, the team looked poised to contend in the conference and expand on last season’s success. While HMV dominated early in their season in exhibition games, they started the season a disappointing 0-3, before knocking off MIT and conference foe Sacred Heart. The past weekend, the team had two big conference games against Princeton and then George Mason — the other two teams that finished towards the top of the conference last year. With six fellow Meese on the roster — including the two co-captains — I felt an obligation to attend the festivities. I would not be disappointed.

The Princeton game started with a bang, as Madden, an opposite side hitter, got the first kill of the game. Princeton hung around in the first set, but Harvard began to pull away, before Madden once again got the kill to secure the first set, 25-20.
After giving up the first point in the second set, Harvard received the next four points, including a devastating smash from junior middle blocker Caleb Zimmick, which forced Princeton into calling a timeout. Harvard went on to control the rest of the set, winning 25-21, and putting the team one set away from victory.

The next two sets, however, were a struggle for this moose to watch. Princeton jumped up to a 6-2 lead. Despite DJ White’s powerful serves that brought the game within a point, the Tigers never really seemed to lose control. A block at the net decided the final play of the set, with Princeton’s Junior Oboh blocking Zimmick at the net, and giving the visitors a 25-20 win.
The fourth set was tough to watch for those rooting for the Crimson. Princeton took all the momentum their previous victory had given them and went on a role, crushing the ball and taking advantage of sloppy play from Harvard. Quickly, the set was over, with the Tigers dominating 25-13, and the decisive fifth set coming up.

The crowd was anxious as the play came down to the final set, which by rule is played to 15 instead of 25. The Tigers stuck with them for a while, but Harvard pulled ahead 12-8 from a DJ White’s kill, putting the Crimson only 3 points away from victory. Despite all their efforts, Princeton ended up falling 15-12, with a service error giving Harvard the win.

The Meese of the game showed up big, highlighted by Madden racking up 17 kills and Gibbons displaying some solid passing along with 7 digs. Freshman setter Bendell also had a terrific game, dishing out 47 assists to go with 6 digs. The second game of the weekend was not quite the same in terms of intensity. George Mason came in as a team much depleted after losing most of their stars from last year’s squad. Harvard swept the Patriots, 25-22, 25-18, and 25-23.

Freshman Casey White led the Crimson with 11 kills, but the middles for Harvard — Zimmick and senior (moose!) Kyle Rehkemper — dominated the game, smashing down 14 kills combined, and hitting .636 and .556, respectively. Gibbons once again showed off terrific passing skills, with 7 digs, while Bendell dished out 38 assists and directed the offense to perfection. The team as a whole hit .390, which marks their highest percentage since last April against Sacred Heart.

Harvard improved to 3-0 in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, and put their overall record back above .500 at 4-3. The squad heads to Pennsylvania next weekend with a game against St. Francis and then the biggest match of the season thus far against conference favorites Penn State.

While I will not be trekking out to the woods of Pennsylvania, I will surely be in attendance in future games, supporting HMV and my fellow Meese. Until then, I will return to planning steins and crossing roads obnoxiously slow.

Henry Dunster Moose can be contacted via his Facebook page or through chance encounters at sporting events.