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Volleyball outlasts Harvard; faces a must-win against SC

By Kevin T. Hwang

The MIT men's volleyball team kept its playoff hopes alive by defeating the Harvard University Crimson in a five-game thriller (15-11, 12-15, 15-10, 12-15, 15-7), played Thursday in DuPont. Because MIT had beaten Harvard four weeks ago in straight games, the Engineers didn't expect such a challenge. But according to MIT Coach Karyn Altman '78, the Harvard team looked like a different team from the one the Engineers had dominated earlier in the season.

Both teams seemed a bit rattled in the beginning. Neither served consistently, but the Engineers managed to take a 7-0 lead in the first game behind a seemingly impenetrable wall of blockers. However, Harvard got back into the game by hitting high and hard, utilizing the MIT blockers. They got close as 13-10, but MIT held on to win the game 15-11.

In the second game, it was the Crimson that was blocking well. The Harvard middle hitters, whom Altman referred to as the key to Harvard's game, also started hitting, and they went on to win the game 15-12.

Behind the strong serves of Joe Tang '89, the Engineers took a 3-0 lead to start out the third game. The frustration of the Harvard team could be seen as one of the players kicked the ball and received one of three yellow cards given out to the Crimson.

Harvard regained its composure and tied the score at 7-7, forcing MIT to call a timeout. The Engineers responded to the words of Altman -- Alan Peyrat '92 stopped the Crimson momentum with a kill, and MIT roared to a 15-10 victory.

The fourth game was the longest and closest of the match. Each team traded point for point with great defense and effective hitting. MIT did not make use of its middle hitters as well as it did earlier in the match, and Harvard's aggressive playing paid off with a 15-12 victory.

The match was already two hours old, and it came down to the fifth and final game. Harvard led early, 5-2, but jump serves by Peyrat, back-court digging by Allen Downey '89, and hard smashing by the outside hitters helped MIT to roll over Harvard. The Engineers took the game 15-7 to win the match.

After the game, Harvard Coach Ibsan Gurdel blamed his own team for the see-saw competition. He explained that MIT played very consistently, but it was Harvard's play that caused the match to swing so widely from one team to the other.

Gurdel agreed with Altman's assessment that his team is much better than they were the first time MIT met them. Harvard has a lot of players who have never played volleyball before, Gurdel noted. They are "still raw," he admitted, but are "on the road to improvement" with three more Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association league matches to play.

Altman complimented the Harvard team for playing aggressively and passing well. She explained that the high, hard hitting of the Crimson players helped them win points, but also hurt them when many balls were hit out. The Engineers won points when they blocked well, she explained.

Altman praised Downey for playing "great defense" and Tang and Peyrat for all-around playing. Finally, she called the game the most "competitive game that MIT has played in a conference match."

The victory gave the Engineers a chance to qualify for the National Collegiate Athletic Association i'm pretty sure it's NCAA and not EIVA -david playoffs; they must defeat Springfield College in their final match of the season on April 4. But MIT will have to do it on the Chiefs' home court, and when the two teams last met on March 2, Springfield defeated MIT at DuPont. In that match, MIT took a two-games-to-none lead (15-5, 15-3) before dropping the final three games (9-15, 7-15, 10-15).