The Crimson will be making its third straight appearance in the EIVA Tournament Thursday (photo courtesy Zack Williamson).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard men's volleyball team will begin play in the 2014 EIVA Tournament as the second seed when it takes on the third-seeded Princeton Tigers Thursday, April 24 at 5 p.m. at Penn State's Rec Hall in University Park, Pa. This marks the Crimson's third straight appearance in the tournament after reaching the championship in 2013.
What's at Stake
Penn State won the EIVA regular season title for the 30th time with a 13-1 conference mark, but there is still much to gain this weekend as the EIVA Tournament champion will receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Nittany Lions, who have captured the conference championship for the past 15 seasons, earned the bid last year when they defeated the Crimson in the championship match, 3-0.
Harvard in the EIVA Tournament
Harvard has appeared in the each of the last two EIVA Tournaments and reached the championship in 2013. The Crimson upset second-seeded George Mason in its first tournament match, 3-2, before falling to top-ranked Penn State in the final, 3-0. DJ White (3.0 kps, .307 hitting percentage, 1.25 dps) and Caleb Zimmick (2.38 kps, .615 hitting percentage, 1.23 bps) were named to the all-tournament team.
The Tigers enter play in the EIVA Tournament as the third seed after posting a 10-4 conference mark and 15-9 overall record. Princeton's attack ranks second in the conference with 12.82 kps and a .296 hitting percentage.
Cody Kessel is third in the EIVA with 3.54 kps while Pat Schwagler ranks fifth with 3.08 kps. Chris Kennedy has passed out 10.19 aps, good for second in the conference. Defensively, Junior Oboh sports a 1.12 bps average which ranks third in the EIVA with Tony Ensbury's 2.38 dps putting him in fourth.
Inside the Series
Harvard earned the regular season sweep of Princeton with two five set victories to cut the Tigers' all-time series lead to 32-16. The Crimson's win in Princeton, N.J., March 8 marked the second time this season and fourth time in the previous five meetings between the two programs that the match went the distance with the Crimson owning each thrilling five-set win.
Last Time Out
Harvard closed out its 2014 regular season with a 3-1 victory over Rutgers-Newark April 12 at the Golden Dome Arena. The win came by set scores of 21-25, 25-22, 27-25 and 25-15.
A trio of Crimson recorded double-digit kills in the regular season finale with junior DJ White leading Harvard's attack for the 12th time time this season with 15 kills. The junior hit .500 for the second straight day while classmate Caleb Zimmick and sophomore Branden Clemens added 13 kills and 12 kills, respectively. Senior Michael Owen passed out a career-high 59 assists and contributed seven digs to the defensive effort. Clemens also added seven digs while senior Will Chambers and Zimmick chipped in five blocks each on the defensive side of the net.
Rank and File
Following a 3-2 upset win over then-No. 15 Ohio State, Harvard re-entered the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I-II poll at 15th March 23, where it stayed for two weeks. The Crimson initially appeared in the poll at a program-best 13th Jan. 6. Harvard stayed in the national mix for three weeks after knocking off two ranked opponents in pool play at the Asics Invitational to open its season.
Related Link: AVCA Division I-II National Poll
Nick Bendell was honored among the top freshmen in NCAA Division I-II last week with a spot on the Off the Block/Springbak Inc. Freshmen All-America Team. In his first collegiate season in Cambridge, the setter from Orland Park, Ill., turned in five 50-assists performances and wrote his name in Harvard's record book with 733 career assists.
Caleb Zimmick hit an .889 clip in the team's 3-0 victory over Marymount (Va.), registering eight kills on nine attempts. The junior ranks sixth in the nation with a .434 hitting percentage and is second in the EIVA, while DJ White is ninth in the league with a .325 mark. As a team, the Crimson ranks 13th in the NCAA and third in the conference with a .289 percentage and has hit over .300 in a match 13 times this season.
DJ White has scored 225 kills this season, including a career-best 26 at then-No. 13 Ball State March 26, the most for a Crimson player since Nick Madden scored 27 in a 3-0 win at Cal-Baptist March 13, 2011. The junior's team-high 3.37 kps is the fifth best in the conference and 29th in the nation. As a team, Harvard notches the NCAA's 23rd-best kills per set average with 12.31.
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 24th in the NCAA in blocks per set (2.20). On the individual list, Caleb Zimmick (1.10 bps) sits 17th.
Setting it Up
Nick Bendell has served as the Crimson's primary setter in his first collegiate campaign. Bendell has dished out 9.91 aps, which lands 19th in the NCAA and third in the EIVA.
Serving Up Aces
Senior Nick Madden has turned in a total of 19 aces this season, bringing his career total of 59 and putting him in sixth place on Harvard's career list. The Crimson's 0.96 aces per set rank 28th in the NCAA. Classmate Kyle Rehkemper also appears in the Crimson aces annals as the middle blocker has totaled 55 to sit in tied for ninth.
Harvard has received seven double-double efforts this season with Nick Madden and DJ White each contributing three. Caleb Zimmick notched his first career double-double against Concordia Feb. 16. Madden leads the six active Crimson who have notched a double-double in their career with seven.
The White Brothers
Casey and DJ White have been instrumental to the Crimson on both sides of the net this season. The Hermosa Beach, Calif., natives have combined for nearly one-third of Harvard's blocks (53-182), digs (233-837) and service aces (27-80). Offensively, the brothers have notched 40.7 percent (416-1022) of the Crimson's attack.
Nick Bendell picked up the first weekly accolade of his career April 7 when he was named the Off the Block/Springbak Inc. Co-National Freshmen of the Week. The setter appeared on the award's honorable mention list March 23, while classmate Casey White received two honorable mention nods this season.
And the Award Goes To
Harvard has earned six EIVA weekly awards this season with three Crimson student-athletes garnering an honor.
Nick Madden picked up three straight defensive player of the week nods March 10, 17 and 24, while DJ White has been named the best defensive and offensive player of the week. Kyle Rehkemper was tabbed the best defensive player over a seven-day stretch for his performance in Harvard's EIVA opener against Sacred Heart Feb. 7.
Related Links: DJ White Earns EIVA Defensive Player of the Week Honors | Rehkemper Named EIVA Defensive Player of the Week | Madden Tabbed EIVA Defensive Player of the Week | DJ White, Madden Sweep EIVA Weekly Awards | Madden Picks Up Third Straight EIVA Defensive Player of the Week Honor
The Crimson has hosted 55 opponents in 115 matches under the roof of the Malkin Athletic Center and boasts an 82-33 (.713) all-time mark at home. Harvard's home-court advantage includes a program-best nine-match win streak that lasted more than a calendar year between Feb. 18, 2012 to April 5, 2013.
The Crimson started EIVA play at 6-1 for the first time in program history. With the sweep of Rutgers-Newark and NJIT, Harvard displaced its prior record to start league action of 5-2, set in 2012 en route to a 10-4 EIVA record and second place regular-season finish.
Eight active players have already made a place for themselves in Harvard's record book. Chris Gibbons owns the top spot for career digs (778) while Will Cambers' .435 hitting percentage sits atop the career list. Kyle Rehkemper finds himself on five of the Crimson's career annals; fifth in block assists (199), sixth in total blocks (223), ninth in hitting percentage (.299) and service aces (55) and tied for tenth solo blocks (24). Nick Madden has etched his name on five lists as the senior sits second in digs (475), third in kills (848), fourth in block assists (214), fifth in total blocks (234) and sixth in service aces (59). DJ White and Caleb Zimmick rank in the top-10 on four lists each. DJ White holds the seventh best total kills (742), kills per set (3.08) and digs (370) and eighth best hitting percentage .319. Zimmick lands tied for second in hitting percentage (.404), third in block assists (219) and fourth in solo blocks (37) and total blocks (256). Michael Owen's 131 block assists and 141 total blocks are good for seventh and 10th, respectively, while Nick Bendell's 733 assists land seventh.
Related Link: Record Book
Thank You, Seniors!
Harvard honored the playing careers of its five graduating seniors, Will Chambers, Chris Gibbons, Nick Madden, Michael Owen, and Kyle Rehkemper, prior to its match against Saint Francis April 5. The Class of 2014 has helped the Crimson to a 13-7 mark this season and owns a 58-38 record over the course of their careers. These five seniors have led Harvard to three straight appearances in the EIVA tournament and the program's first and highest AVCA national ranking, while writing each of their names in the program's record book along the way.
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 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 through the duration of their subscription.