Columbia volleyball (4-10, 2-3 Ivy) came away with a split in its weekend road trip against Dartmouth (8-9, 1-4 Ivy) and Harvard (8-6, 3-2 Ivy). The Lions rallied from two sets down to clinch a five-set match with the Big Green, but ended up getting swept the next day against the Crimson.
“I’m really pleased,” head coach Jon Wilson said. “We finally brought our service game on the road against Dartmouth. Partway through that second set, we were down 10 points. I called a timeout, and the girls realized we were unhappy with the level of play. We didn’t win the set, but we closed the gap down to four or five points. So this weekend, we took a lot of steps forward with our mental maturity.”
Losing two sets 26-24 and 25-20 to open the match, the Lions upped their intensity and focus. The service pressure held up and helped the Lions claw their way back.
“When you’ve got the home crowd yelling, it takes a little bit out of your offense on the road,” Wilson said. “You have to dig in a little deeper on defense and put service pressure on your opponent so they don’t get into their own offensive rhythm.”
The Lions took the next two sets by an identical 25-21 scoreline and breezed through the tiebreaker set 15-5.
The sophomore trio of Atlanta Moye-McLaren, Bailey Springer, and Alex Reale continued to show the depth and the consistency that has characterized the Lions offense. Each had 14 kills in the victory.
One of the most challenging achievements in Ivy League volleyball is a weekend road sweep, and the loss against Harvard showed the Lions that they still have work to do if they are to knock off Yale as perennial Ivy title winner.
“If you look around the league—besides Yale—none of the other teams are getting road sweeps,” Wilson said. “It’s really difficult in the league. Looking at last year’s team, it took the seniors four years to finally achieve one.”
The Lions faced a Crimson team that used a tremendous amount of service pressure. Coupled with an untimely injury to Moye-McLaren partway through the first set, the Columbia found itself swept, losing 25-16, 25-21, and 25-21.
“Harvard had two jump-spin servers that took us out of our rhythm for the first two sets,” Wilson said. “We were with them, but they had key runs towards the ends of both sets at the beginning, and we couldn’t deal with it.”
Wilson was not overly concerned about the loss and said he thinks the Lions can continue to build upon what they achieved at Dartmouth.
“For a lot of factors, I don’t put much into the Harvard game. After the win against Dartmouth, we may have left a little bit on the court. Against Harvard, our energy was down maybe 5, 10 percent,” Wilson said. “And with Lanti [Moye-McLaren] out, we lost a bit of our ball control because she’s been one of the best on the team in that regard.”
One aspect of the game that the Lions continue to excel at is blocking. Despite the injury of senior Savannah Fletcher, one of the better defensive middles in the league, first-year Kesi Neblett and sophomore Katarina Jovicic have been capable and talented in the position.
“It’s Kat’s first year in the middle, and it’s also Kesi’s first year,” Wilson said. “I don’t think Kat or Kesi are anywhere near their full potential. They can become very good, even dominant middles in this league.”
The Lions prepare to finish up the first half of conference play with home matches against Brown and Yale next weekend.