The Harvard women’s volleyball team hosted a competitive double-header as it continued Ivy League play in front of students, alumni, parents, and fans this past weekend. The hosts showed their resilience, bouncing back from the previous weekend’s loss to Dartmouth and topping Penn in a tight five-setter for its second win of the season on Friday. The next day, however, the Crimson, despite respectable performances from its players, came up short against a strong Princeton offense. Saturday’s matchup was a headline of the Title IX Celebration Weekend, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of women’s athletics at the College.
Harvard (2-9, 1-2 Ivy League) got out to a slow start in each set against the Tigers. The first, for instance, was agonizing for Crimson fans. Princeton (11-2, 3-0 Ivy League) capitalized on aces and kills to take an early 8-1 lead, which it would then translate to 10-3. Princeton’s senior outside hitter Avery Luoma dominated the net, contributing four kills in this 13-point span and 18 on the night. The hosts finally managed to find their footing after this initial slide, however. They brought themselves within two after a quick five-point run and even leveled the score at 14-14, setting the Malkin Athletic Center (MAC) aroar.
This comeback, an example of Harvard’s strong efforts this weekend and throughout the season as a whole, came in part off the arm of junior outside hitter Katie Vorhies. Vorhies posted 18 kills on the night and has led the team in kills in each Ivy League match this season, tallying 130.5 points over 39 sets played.
The rest of the first set was a game of catchup for the Crimson, as kills were traded between Luoma and junior middle blocker Ava Rauser and sophomore outside hitter Corinne Furey. Furey and Rauser had the second- and third-most kills for the team in the match respectively, and the latter also contributed four blocks. Nevertheless, Princeton’s offense, aided by Harvard errors, claimed the first set, 25-22, for the visitors.
Injuries have plagued the Crimson this season, forcing the Cantabrigians to play without key offensive components such as junior setter/hitter Ashley Wang and senior right side attacker Jaimie Rao. One player who has stood out in offsetting these losses is senior captain Bella Almanza, who posted seven kills, a team-high five blocks, and nine digs on the night.
A shining moment of Almanza’s leadership came in the third set when Harvard went on a four-point run that consisted of an Almanza kill, block (with help from junior middle blocker Ariana White), Vorhies slam that occurred because of an Almanza save, and another Almanza/White block. This series propelled the Crimson to a 16-14 lead in a set that began with a 7-2 Princeton advantage. Harvard then closed out the set, 25-20, courtesy of a kill from junior middle hitter Olivia Cooper.
This third set victory marked a reversal from the previous one’s 25-18 gap that went in favor of the Tigers. The New Jerseyans once again had a strong start, going up 5-2 before the Crimson leveled the score at five apiece. There was a deadlock from then until the halfway point of the set. The teams traded two- or three-point runs, and the score tied four times at 7-7, 10-10, 12-12, and 14-14. In the end, Princeton demonstrated its resilience by pulling ahead 22-18 before closing it out with a kill, ace, and block.
The applause was still reverberating throughout the MAC as the two teams took the court for the fourth set. The Tigers put a quick end to this celebration, however, as they took a quick 4-0 lead, which they translated into a 11-4 edge. From there, Harvard managed to find its footing, as Vorhies kills and three errors from Princeton’s senior outside hitter Melina Mahood closed Princeton’s lead to 12-11. No team could secure more than two points in a row for the next 19 rallies, and the score settled at 21-21. With the end in sight, the Tigers made one final push, combining two Luoma kills with two Crimson errors to seal the set, 25-22, and with it the match.
This disappointing loss followed a closely-contested victory over Penn (1-12, 0-3 Ivy League). Vorhies, Almanza, White, and Cooper once again dominated the offensive game, contributing to the 21-25, 25-22, 25-16, 23-25, 15-7 win. The Crimson will stay at home for one more weekend in a double-header against Yale and Brown, the latter of which will conclude the Title IX celebrations.
—Staff writer Noah Jun can be reached at email@example.com.