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Harvard Advances to EIVA Championship Match after 3-2 Victory over George Mason

Harvard Advances to EIVA Championship Match after 3-2 Victory over George Mason

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - One year later, Harvard didn’t want the story to end the same way it did in 2012.

After being swept by George Mason in last season’s EIVA Tournament semifinals, No. 3 seeded Harvard flipped the script Thursday night, knocking off the second-seeded Patriots in five sets (25-23, 26-28, 17-25, 25-22, 19-17) at Rec Hall in University Park, Pa.

It will be Harvard’s first EIVA final appearance.

“It was déjà vu to the max,” said Harvard outside hitter Nick Madden, who finished with a team-high 16 kills. “I was looking at the same situation I was last year.  But [coach said last year] keep that feeling of frustration, keep it in this gym, because you’ll get another shot.”

Since both teams returned almost the same rosters from a season ago, Madden said it felt all too familiar when the Crimson trailed 12-8 in the fifth set. Harvard, however, battled back and tied the match at 14 when two Patriots collided going after the ball.

The two teams traded points until it was 17-17, and Harvard ended the match with a kill and a service ace.

“The most important points came our way,” Crimson head coach Brian Baise, whose team hit .282, said. The Patriots hit .265. “That doesn’t always happen. But it did tonight.”

Madden led the way for Harvard with 16 kills, two blocks and nine digs. D.J. White had 15 kills, Branden Clemens had 12 and Caleb Zimmick added 4.5 blocks and 12 kills. Harvard outblocked George Mason 10.5 to five in the match.

Senior Michael Kvidahl paced George Mason’s offense, registering 22 kills while hitting .255. Andrew Dentler added 19 kills with a .425 clip and Mark Jones finished with 13 kills, hitting .162. Jones, a middle hitter, had all of his kills in the first three sets, and went quiet in the final two.

Baise said he wanted his players to take away the line and force Jones toward the middle, and it proved effective.

“If he starts to struggle, and we’re not passing well, we’re looking at setting [the pins],” George Mason head coach Fred Chao said. “And a variety of things have to fall into place for us to score.”

Harvard captured the first set while hitting at a .346 clip, although it trailed 20-16. The Crimson got four kills from Clemens and three from White in the opening frame.

Baise said having come to Rec Hall last year for the EIVA Tournament gave his team an extra bit of confidence and comfort, so players didn’t panic when trailing.

Chao said he thought his team served and passed well at the beginning of the match, then lost those two facets of the game as it progressed.

Senior Max McFarland said Harvard mixed up their serves and the Patriots weren’t able to respond --- like White jump serving, something they hadn’t seen in either of their two victories over Harvard during the regular season, a 3-1 and a 3-0 win.

He added that Harvard was able to mix in float and jump serves, as well as move its setter around, to keep George Mason off balance.

“The first couple times we played them, everything was kind of predictable for us,” McFarland said.Harvard will take on the winner of fourth-seeded Princeton and one-seeded Penn State Saturday night at 7. The Nittany Lions have won the EIVA Tournament each year since 1999.

The Crimson defeated Penn State earlier this season, but Madden said that victory doesn’t change the team’s mindset or confidence level.

“I think we’re confident in ourselves. It doesn’t matter who we play,” Madden said. “It’s 0-0 to start the game. I think we’re confident in how we play.”

Story Courtesy of Steven Petrella