Women’s volleyball begins to turn season around.
Volleyball entered the weekend of the New England Challenge with a lot of pressure on their performance. The prior weekend, the team had the incredible opportunity to play at the Pentagon. After winning their home opener against Rutgers, the Crimson hobbled to Virginia looking to bounce back from a two game losing streak. In the end, they lost all three of the games, including two that went to five games. Returning home with a record of 2-5, the squad looked to regroup and set the season back on the right track.
First, the women faced a strong University of New Hampshire team, against whom they fought their way to a 3-2 victory. After dropping the first two sets of the game, the Crimson stormed back behind junior Grace Weghorst’s 24 kills and 7 digs.
Entering the weekend then at 3-5, Harvard needed all three to jump back above .500. Those who went to the Friday night game against the University of Connecticut (5-4) saw a group of women who refused to lose, playing a gritty, hard-fought match before taking the victory in four sets.
The first set was all Harvard the entire time. Taking the lead 6-5, the Crimson never looked back. The team as a whole hit .467, anchored by four different players registering three kills. The diversity of the attack, coupled with a strong defensive game led the Crimson into the second set with all the momentum.
Unfortunately, however, that momentum was quelled quickly, as Harvard fell behind 6-1. After coming back and falling behind repeatedly over the course of the set, the Crimson eventually saw themselves on the brink of defeat, 23-19. Sophomore Paige Kebe refused to see her team lose, as she drove the comeback to completion, getting the final two kills and winning the set 26-24.
The third set was sloppy for the Crimson, as they dropped it 22-25, trailing for the majority of the time. But in the fourth, the team came back and looked to end the match. With a close score of 16-15, Harvard needed some solid play to put the game away—and solid play they did receive. Five straight points put UConn out of reach, and eventually the Crimson ended the game on a block by senior captain Caroline Holte and junior Jane Labanowski.
While the game saw a lot of back and forth action, 27 errors for UConn and 22 for Harvard, there were some bright points, especially for Harvard. The home team held UConn to a .101 hitting percentage, not allowing them to gain a rhythm in the attack. Freshman middle Christina Cornelius tallied 11 kills, while also anchoring that defensive wall with seven blocks, including one ferocious solo block that left the UConn women flustered. Junior Corinne Bain also had herself a day, putting up her third triple-double of the season with 12 kills, 17 digs, and 28 assists. Furthermore, helping our the defense the few times the blockers did not get there were senior Sindhu Vegesena and Weghorst, who tallied 23 and 13 digs respectively.
Overall, the women looked poised to begin their comeback after a slow start to the season. The next day, behind 17 kills, 23 assists, and 9 digs from Bain, Harvard dispatched a much weaker Northeastern (3-11) team, en route to a 3-1 victory. Unfortunately, the fun came to an end Saturday night, however, against Boston College (8-4). Despite 17 kills from Cornelius and 20 digs a piece from Vegesena and Bain, the Eagles ended the Crimson’s three game winning streak. Harvard took a 2-1 lead, but lost the final two sets 23-25 and 12-15.
Despite the loss, the defending Ivy League co-champions are entering their conference season with high hopes. At 5-6, Harvard starts the conference play with five straight home games, beginning with Dartmouth (3-5) on September 25th. The game to watch, however, will be the home game on October 10th against Yale (5-4). The Crimson tied the Bulldogs last season for the championship, before losing a devastating tiebreaker for a spot in the national playoffs. This season, they are out for revenge against a Yale team that has looked good, but not without weaknesses, this season. Yale has won a share of the Ivy League title for the past five seasons, while Harvard has only ever tied for the title — last year and in 2004. With plenty of experience from a squad that returned all but two players from last year, as well as the addition of freshman Cornelius, who has recorded double digit kills in 3 of the last 4 games, the Crimson are looking to crash into the Ivy League race.
Sean Frazzette’16 (firstname.lastname@example.org) thinks the Crimson will be going places this season.