Currently the Crimson is tied for first in the EIVA with No. 12 Penn State (photo courtesy Zach Williamson).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard men's volleyball team hits the road once again this weekend as it travels to George Mason and Princeton for a pair of crucial EIVA contests. The Crimson will first face the Patriots Friday, March 7 at 7 p.m., before taking to the court against the Tigers Saturday, March 8 at 4 p.m.
Where We Stand
Harvard heads into the weekend tied with No. 12 Penn State for first place in the EIVA standings with a 6-1 conference mark. Princeton sits third at 4-1 while St. Francis; (Pa.) 4-3 mark is good for fourth. George Mason and Sacred Heart are evenly matched at 2-4 for fifth place. NJIT and Rutgers-Newark remain winless (0-5) in conference action to close out the standings. A pair of victories this weekend for the Crimson over the Patriots and Tigers will help separate the pack.
Scouting George Mason
The Patriots are fifth in the EIVA with a 6-8 overall record and 2-4 conference marking after dropping a pair of matches last weekend to St. Francis (Pa.) and then-No. 10 Penn State.
George Mason boasts a balanced attacked led by Radoslav Popov (2.97 kps) and Jack Wilson (2.95 kps). A threesome has shared the setting duties as Jackson Carr boasts a team best 10.71 aps while Joe Heim and Pete Cuppernull have dished out 7.80 aps and 6.22 aps, respectively. Dave Lucas sports a team-best 2.15 dps with Hunter Stevens' 1.53 bps leading the way at the net.
Inside the Series with the Patriots
Powered by a combined .390 hitting percentage, Harvard blanked George Mason, 3-0, in the first meeting between the teams this season. The win marked the Crimson's first ever sweep of the Patriots and second straight over the conference rival despite trailing the all-time series, 3-7. Casey White scored a match-high 11 kills to finish with a .318 percentage, while brother DJ White hit .444 with nine kills. Caleb Zimmick posted a .636 percentage with eight kills, and also turned in three aces and five blocks.
Coming off a pair of wins last weekend at then-No. 10 Penn State and St. Francis (Pa.), Princeton enters the weekend in third place in the EIVA with a 5-6 overall record and 4-1 conference mark. The Tigers' attack ranks second in the conference with 13.86 kps and a .303 hitting percentage.
Cody Kessell is second in the EIVA with 3.44 kps while Pat Schwagler ranks seventh with 3.02 kps. Chris Kennedy has passed out 9.83 aps, good for second in the conference. Defensively, Junior Oboh sports a 1.18 bps average which ranks fourth in the EIVA with Tony Ensbury's 2.00 dps putting him ninth.
Inside the Series with the Tigers
Harvard defeated Princeton in the first meeting between the teams this season, 3-2. The five-set thriller was the second straight win for the Crimson over the Tigers to cut Princeton's all-time series lead to 32-15. Nick Madden scored a season-high 17 kills to lead a quartet of Crimson who posted double-digit kill efforts. Caleb Zimmick notched 13 kills, Casey White chipped in 11 and DJ White rounded out the foursome with 10.
Harvard begins a two-week break from EIVA action Tuesday, March 11 when it entertains Marymount (Va.) at the MAC at 7 p.m.
Last Time Out
Harvard completed its weekend sweep of Rutgers-Newark and NJIT Saturday afternoon by taking out the Highlanders in straight sets, 3-0, at the Malkin Athletic Center. The victory came by set scores of 25-16, 25-19 and 25-14.
The Crimson made history with the win as Harvard moved to 6-1 in EIVA action, the program's best start in conference play, and 8-4 overall. The victory also marked the Crimson's ninth sweep of the Highlanders, who dropped to 5-6 overall and 0-5 in league action.
DJ White recorded a season-high 18 kills and hit .593 on the afternoon to help lead the attack. Brother Casey White also reached double-digits with 11 kills while Nick Madden contributed seven and Caleb Zimmick six. Nick Bendell passed out 37 assists to lead Harvard to its highest hitting clip of the season, .442, and best since hitting .493 in a 3-0 win against Rutgers-Newark April 13, 2013.
Chris Gibbons led the defense with a season-best 16 digs. Madden chipped in 12 digs while Zimmick posted five blocks.
The Crimson is off to a 6-1 start in EIVA play for the first time in program history. With the weekend sweep of Rutgers-Newark and NJIT, Harvard displaced its record to start league action which was 5-2 in 2012 en route to a 10-4 EIVA record and second place regular-season finish.
Just Keep Winning
The Crimson has improved its win streak to three straight matches and has now won eight of its last nine. Harvard rattled off a season-best five straight victories from Feb. 1 to Feb. 21, but has not enjoyed a win streak of more than five matches since taking six in a row last season from Feb. 2, 2013 to Feb. 23, 2013.
Rank and File
After knocking off two ranked opponents in pool play at the Asics Invitational Jan. 3, Harvard entered the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I-II poll at a program-best 13th Jan. 6. The Crimson remained in the national mix for three-straight weeks, and has since received votes each week.
Related Link: AVCA Division I-II National Poll
Harvard will host its second annual EIVA rally night Friday, April 4 against Penn State to help raise funds and awareness towards cancer research. The EIVA formed the "EIVA Rallies" campaign last year to benefit the Memorial Sloan-Keetering Cancer Center. For more information or to make a donation, please click here.
DJ White has scored 125 kills this season, including a season-best 18 against NJIT March 1. The junior's team-high 3.05 kps is the sixth best in the conference and 40th in the nation. As a team, Harvard notches the NCAA's 27th-best kps average with 11.66.
Harvard protected the net against Concordia, posting 21 total blocks, a season high and the most by a Crimson squad since matching that number in a 3-2 win over Princeton April 5, 2011. Currently, Harvard ranks No. 23 in the NCAA in blocks per set (2.18). On the individual list, Caleb Zimmick (1.12 bps) sits 15th while Kyle Rehkemper's 0.86 bps ranks 50th.
Harvard has received two double-double efforts this season. Nick Madden contributed 14 kills and 13 digs at Saint Franics (Pa.) Feb. 21 while Caleb Zimmick poured in 13 kills and 12 blocks for the first double-double of his career against Concordia Feb. 25. Six current Crimson have notched a double-double in their career with Madden leading the way with five.
The White Brothers
Casey and DJ White have been instrumental to the Crimson on both sides of the net thus far this season. The Hermosa Beach, Calif., natives have combined for nearly one-third third of Harvard's blocks (30-102), digs (107-400) and service aces (17-49). Offensively, the brothers have notched 41.5 percent (217/513) of the Crimson's attack.
Setting it Up
Nick Bendell has served as the Crimson's primary setter in his first collegiate campaign. Bendell has dished out 9.68 aps, which lands 21st in the NCAA and fourth in the EIVA, to lead Harvard to the nation's 18th-best hitting percentage (.272).
Serving Up Aces
Senior Nick Madden has turned in a total of 13 aces this season, bringing his career total to 53, which puts him tenth on Harvard's career list. He currently sits 31st in the nation with 0.32 aces per set while the Crimson as a team ranks 24th (1.11). Classmate Kyle Rehkemper looks to enter the Crimson aces annals as the middle blocker has totaled 51.
Casey White has been named to Off the Block's National Freshman of the Week honorable mention list twice this season. The outside hitter picked up his first accolade Feb. 17 after helping the Crimson to a 2-0 weekend by averaging 2.75 kps and 1.00 dps against Princeton and George Mason. The Hermosa Beach, Calif., native earned his second honorable mention nod March 3 after posting 2.25 kps, 1.13 dps and 0.25 bps in a 3-0 week for Harvard versus Concordia, Rutgers-Newark and NJIT.
Related Link: Off the Block
And the Award Goes To
Two Crimson student-athletes have earned EIVA Defensive Player of the Week accolades thus far this season.
DJ White earned the honor after pacing Harvard with 2.43 kps, 1.57 dps and 1.5 bps for the Crimson's efforts against two top-15 teams Jan. 27. Kyle Rehkemper was tabbed defensive player of the week for his 2.00 bps, 1.00 kps, 2.50 points per set and .333 hitting percentage performance in Harvard's EIVA opener against Sacred Heart Feb 7.
DJ White and Rehkemper have been selected for best player over a seven-day stretch three times each.
Eight active players have already made a place for themselves in Harvard's record book. Chris Gibbons owns the top spot for career digs (680) while Will Chambers' .431 hitting percentage sits atop the career list. Nick Madden finds himself on five of the Crimson's career annals; third in block assists (194), fifth in total blocks (213) and kills (752), sixth in digs (393) and tenth in aces (53). Kyle Rehkemper, DJ White and Caleb Zimmick rank in the top-10 on three lists each. Rehkemper sits sixth in block assists (176), eighth in total blocks (197) and hitting percentage (.280). White's .307 hitting percentage ranks seventh while his 611 kills and 2.97 kps average rank eighth. Zimmick lands on each of the block lists with 32 solo blocks (4th), 182 block assists (4th) and 214 total blocks (4th). Michael Owen's 127 block assists are good for seventh while Nick Bendell's 397 assists land ninth.
Related Link: Men's Volleyball Record Book
Seniors Chris Gibbons and Kyle Rehkemper earned spots on the 50th Asics Invitational All-Tournament team after helping Harvard down two ranked opponents – then-No. 5 Stanford and then-No. 8 UCSB – to reach the championship round of the invite. Rehkemper contributed to the Crimson's offense with 13 kills and a .792 hitting percentage while Gibbons registered nine digs.
Coming off an appearance in the EIVA Tournament championship, Harvard was been picked third in the 2014 EIVA Preseason Poll. The Crimson's third place pick is its highest ever finish in the poll with 23 points.
Defending champion Penn State was chosen to repeat, receiving seven of the eight first-place votes for nine points, while Princeton was selected second with a total of 20 points and the one remaining first-place vote. George Mason (32 points), St. Francis (Pa.) (38), NJIT (50), Sacred Heart (52) and Rutgers-Newark (64) rounded out the preseason rankings.
Related Link: Men's Volleyball Tabbed Third in EIVA Preseason Poll
Ivy League Digital Network
For the first time ever, each of Harvard's 11 home matches will be streamed in HD quality featuring a live scoreboard, new graphics package and play-by-play commentary through the Ivy League Digital Network. Subscribers to the network can watch matches both live and on-demand at their convenience, and will have access to live and on-demand content for all Harvard athletics events throughout the duration of their subscription.