Men's Volleyball Closes Home Slate with NJIT, Rutgers-Newark This Weekend

Men's Volleyball Closes Home Slate with NJIT, Rutgers-Newark This Weekend

The Crimson looks to end its home schedule with a pair of victories over EIVA opponents this weekend (photo courtesy Gil Talbot).

The Storyline
The Harvard men's volleyball team will play its final two home matches of the 2013 season this weekend when NJIT and Rutgers-Newark come to Cambridge. The Crimson clinched a spot in the EIVA Tournament last week, but is still fighting for playoff positioning as the regular-season comes to a close. Harvard faces NJIT on Friday at April 12, at 7 p.m. and meets Rutgers-Newark on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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Last Time Out
The Harvard men's volleyball team saw its 12-match home win streak come to an end Saturday, as George Mason rallied past the Crimson, 25-22, 23-25, 16-25, 22-25, at the Malkin Athletic Center. Nick Madden paced the Crimson (14-8, 7-4) with a match-high 15 kills, while Branden Clemens recorded a double-double with 12 kills and 10 digs. Caleb Zimmick hit .429 to finish with eight kills, and he also was in on seven of the team's eight blocks with one solo and six assisted. Rob Lothman chipped in with 39 assists and seven digs on his Senior Day.

Related Link: George Mason Outlasts Men's Volleyball, 3-1

Around the League
Harvard is currently in fourth place of the EIVA standings with a 7-4 conference mark and a 14-8 overall record. Entering the weekend, the Crimson is third in the conference in hitting percentage (.257), second in aces (1.14), fourth in assists (11.14), kills (11.91) and blocks (2.34), and ranks sixth in digs (8.66).

DJ White, Caleb Zimmick rank second and fourth in the league with hitting percentages of .345 and .313, respectively, while Branden Clemens is ninth with a .273 attack. White also ranks sixth in the EIVA for kills per set at 3.21 and is joined by Nick Madden with 2.90 kps for 10th in the same stat column. Chris Gibbons comes in fifth among liberos with 2.40 dps, while Rob Lothman is third among EIVA setters with 9.99 aps. Zimmick also boasts the fourth best blocking average at 1.18 bps with Kyle Rehkemper chipping in 0.86 bps, ninth in the conference. At the service line, Rehkemper rates seventh in the EIVA for aces per set (0.29), while Michael Owen is eighth at 0.26.

National Scene
Men's volleyball national ranking summary through games played March 31.


Scouting NJIT
The Highlanders swept two matches against Rutgers-Newark in their two matches dating back to March 26. At 3-7 in EIVA contests, NJIT is in sixth place. The Highlanders are 6-18 on the year and have gone 2-4 in their last six matches.

NJIT is hitting .204 on the year, sixth in the EIVA. The Highlanders rate seventh in the league with averages 11.28 kills per set and 10.60 assists per set, while their 1.97 blocks per set is sixth and 9.66 digs per set is second.

Individually, Doug Battersby is ranked sixth in the conference for hitting percentage (.286) and Kevin Van Oss is 10th with a .257 attack. Brady Smith carries the EIVA's second best digs per set average (2.56), while Matthew Lui rates seventh in the league with 7.78 assists per set.

Harvard shut down NJIT in straight sets earlier this season, but the all-time series still favors NJIT, 15-14.

Previous Meeting: No. 15 Men's Volleyball Cruises to Victory at NJIT, 3-0

Scouting Rutgers-Newark
The Scarlett Raiders are 4-17 and 0-10 in EIVA play this season. Rutgers-Newark is 2-4 in its last six matches and will meet Sacred Heart on Friday, April 12, before taking on Harvard Saturday.

Rutgers-Newark ranks seventh in the EIVA for hitting percentage (.181), digs per set (8.39) and blocks per set (1.46), and last in the league in kills per set (10.80), assists per set (10.00),

Opposite side hitter Manuel Felipez carries the conference's third best kills per set average (3.55), while outside hitter Travis Mintzer has the league's third most efficient attack (.314). K. McCandless (7.02) and A. Lopez (5.19) rank eighth and ninth in the EIVA for assists per set. Felipez' team-leading 1.65 digs per set are ninth best in the conference.

After sweeping Rutgers-Newark in the earlier meeting this season, Harvard has won three straight matches against the Scarlett Raiders, but still trails in the all-time series, 15-8.

Previous Meeting: No. 15 Men's Volleyball Continues Win Streak at Rutgers-Newark, 3-0

Dishing 'Em Out
Senior setter Rob Lothman's 53 assists against Princeton on April 5 were the fourth most in a single match for the Crimson. Lothman, the school's all-time leading setter, also holds the third highest single-match assist mark of 54, which he set as a sophomore against the Tigers. The captain has recorded eight matches with 50 or more helpers in his career.

Approaching the Postseason
With three matches remaining in the regular season, Harvard is in EIVA Tournament with the fourth and final spot. The Crimson clinched its second consecutive postseason berth with a 3-2 defeat of Princeton on Friday, April 5, and will likely face top-seed Penn State in the league tournament.

Records are Meant to be Broken
Two Harvard men's volleyball records were broken within four days of each other. Junior Chris Gibbons produced 30 digs against UC Santa Barbara on March 15 to surpass Matt Jones '12 452 career digs. With 539 scoops, Gibbons is the only player in program history to surpass the 500 dig plateau.

At Concordia on March 19, senior Rob Lothman dished out 27 assists to overtake Mike Bookman '03 in career assists. Bookman amassed 2,765 assists while playing for the Crimson. Lothman, whose freshman and junior single-season totals rate among the best in program history, has tallied 2,895 assists at Harvard.

Keep on Blockin'
Middle blocker Caleb Zimmick registered a career-high nine blocks against Sacred Heart on March 13. Zimmick has recorded seven or more blocks four times this season and logged 13 matches with at least five blocks in the sophomore's young career.

Winning Ways
Harvard won six straight matches from Feb. 2 to Feb. 23, it longest streak since winning 13 in a row in 2005. During that span, the Crimson won four matches in straight sets, also matching the 2005 team's streak of four consecutive sweeps.

National News
Harvard has fallen from the AVCA Division I-II Poll after being ranked in consecutive weeks from Feb. 25 to March 4. The Crimson reached as high as No. 14, the highest ranking in program history.

Taking Home the Hardware
Sophomore DJ White recently earned a pair of honors, being named both the AVCA Division I-II National Player of the Week and EIVA Offensive Player of the Week. The praise comes after White averaged 4.17 kills per set and hit .477 as the Crimson knocked off No. 9 Penn State and St. Francis (Pa.) in straight sets.

White is the first member of the Crimson to earn the national recognition. He has been named the conference's offensive player of the week twice this season and has earned the distinction three times in his career.

Slump Busters
The Crimson ended a 51-match drought for conference opponents versus Penn State when it upset the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions Feb. 15, 3-0. Penn State's last loss to an EIVA conference foe came on March 7, 2008 to George Mason, 3-1.

Ranked Wins
Harvard's 3-0 victory over then ninth-ranked Penn State marked the team's second win over a ranked opponent in as many years. Last season, the Crimson knocked off No. 12 Call State Northridge, 3-1, to record the program's first victory against a ranked team under head coach Brian Baise.

MAC Attack
Harvard is 23-7 in the friendly confines of the Malkin Athletic Center since the start of 2011 including a 7-1 mark this year.  The Crimson won 12 straight matches at home dating back to last season, before having that streak snapped against George Mason on April 6. Harvard has also captured each of its last three home openers.

Block Party
The Crimson recorded 17.5 blocks at No. 6 Penn State, the team's highest total over the last three seasons. Caleb Zimmick led the way with eight total blocks as Michael Owen and Kyle Rehkemper each turned in seven. Nick Madden and Rob Lothman also got in on the action, registering six blocks and four blocks, respectively.

Harvard's season high for blocks in 2012 was 17 at Rutgers-Newark.

Quick Start
Harvard swept Stevens, NYU and St. Francis (Pa.) to open the year, marking the third straight season that the Crimson has started the year with at least two victories. Harvard's three straight-set victories, meanwhile, had not been accomplished since 1993 when the squad posted four sweeps in its first four matches.

Catch the Crimson in 2012
Harvard will host 11 home matches at the Malkin Athletic Center this season and each will be streamed live online through Fans can also watch each match On Demand approximately two hours after completion. One-year subscriptions are available for $49.95 and allow access to every home event streamed by the Crimson, including football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's hockey and men's soccer. For more information or to sign up today, click here.

Captaining the Ship
Rob Lothman and Nick Madden will serve as the team's captains for the 2013 season. Lothman was named to the All-EIVA second team in 2012 after setting a career-high with 888 assists, the fifth-best single-season total in program history. Lothman directed the Crimson attack to a .298 hitting percentage, which ranked seventh in the NCAA, while his 10.1 assists per set were good for 18th in the nation. Madden, meanwhile, started all 24 matches last year for the Crimson and ranked second on the squad in kills (3.01) and points (3.6). His 268 kills in 2012 were good for eighth in program history while his 147 career blocks rank his sixth all-time.

Banner Year
Harvard is coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history, as the Crimson earned its first-ever national ranking in 2012 and finished the year at No. 15 in the AVCA Coaches Poll. Harvard posted an 18-6 overall record and took second in the EIVA with a 10-4 conference mark, with the team's 18 wins representing the third-highest total ever.

Head coach Brian Baise was tabbed as the EIVA Coach of the Year as a result of the squad's success while Matt Jones, DJ White and Rob Lothman all earned all-conference accolades.