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After a tough five-set loss at the hands of Cornell capped last weekend’s slate of Ivy League competition, the Harvard women’s volleyball team got right back on track on Friday night.
The Crimson dropped the first set to Dartmouth in the Malkin Athletic Center, but responded by taking the next three to send the Big Green back to Hanover winless.
“We knew what we wanted to do against Dartmouth offensively and defensively,” Harvard coach Jennifer Weiss said. “So we practiced all week.”
After splitting the first two sets, a 10-3 run behind three kills from junior Paige Kebe and two from co-captain Corie Bain that pushed the Crimson’s lead to 21-13 seemed to place Harvard (6-11, 4-4 Ivy) in a great position to take a one-set advantage over the Big Green (8-11, 1-7).
But point by point, the Crimson’s control over the frame became ever more tenuous.
Three straight attacking errors saw the lead shrink to five. The two teams would trade the next six points, putting Harvard within one point of victory. But three attack errors from the Crimson and a kill from Dartmouth’s Danielle Grinka brought the Big Green to within one point of tying the set, 24-23.
Then, in the most crucial moment of the match, it was freshman Grace Roberts Burbank who stepped up and delivered the decisive kill on a set from fellow classmate Erin McCarthy, taking a 2-1 lead that it would not let go of for the remainder of the contest.
“I’m excited about [the freshmen] are going to develop as a group,” Weiss said. “They’re getting so much great experience because we threw them right into a fire.”
After coughing up an 11-5 advantage in the fifth set against the Big Red less than a week prior, the squad made sure not to let that happen two games in a row.
“We do have a lot of youth on the team,” Weiss said. “We had to take the timeout and say you have to talk to each other too. It’s a big deal that they’ve got seven women on this little court. We need to communicate all the time so that’s what they worked on each point.”
The Crimson struggled to close out the third set, but the same could not be said about the next. Trailing 20-19, Harvard would only concede one more point for the rest of the frame. Two kills from sophomore Christina Cornelius and a myriad of Big Green errors later, the Crimson finally quieted the Big Green bench which had been boisterous all game long.
“I really don’t pay attention to the other side,” Kebe said. “Sometimes I’ll look over but it gives me fuel if I see them celebrating or doing something weird. [We can] just shut them down so they can’t do that anymore.”
Cornelius also anchored the defensive effort for the Crimson alongside Bain and freshman Maclaine Fields. Together, the trio tallied four solo blocks and six block assists en route to the team’s fourth Ancient Eight win.
In her second weekend back from injury, Kebe led the Crimson with an 11-kill effort. Burbank and Cornelius were right behind her, each tallying nine on the night.
While Dartmouth senior Emily Astarita—voted a member of the All-Ivy First Team last season—edged Kebe in kills with 13 on the night, the senior also had 9 errors, bringing her kill percentage down to 9 percent.
—Staff writer Kurt Bullard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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