Errors, especially unforced errors, are usually the deciding factor between a win and a loss. This was the case in Boston College volleyball’s two weekend losses against the Harvard Crimson and the Northeastern Huskies. After a home tournament last weekend that saw BC hit, dig, and serve its way to a sweep, the past two games represented the inconsistencies that the Eagles have dealt with this season. They have played exactly one third of their season, and now sit at 5-5 going into conference play, which will see them face some of the best volleyball teams on the East Coast.
The first set against the Huskies was tight at the beginning, characterized by great saves and blocks by both teams. There were numerous long rallies between BC and Northeastern that saw their players sprawled out on the court, arms outstretched just enough to tip the ball to a teammate. BC jumped out to a 3-1 lead on a block by McKenna Goss and a floaty service ace by Madisen Lydon. Northeastern took its first lead at 10-9, but a Julia Topor kill brought BC right back into the set. The Huskies went on an 8-4 run, and while BC made it interesting, the Huskies ultimately won the first set 25-19.
The second set started off with two back-to-back long rallies, one that was won by a BC kill and one that was won by a Northeastern kill. BC jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead that ballooned out to 10-6. But the Huskies kept chipping away, using strong defense mixed with devastating kills to take the lead at 14-13. From there the teams matched each other kill for kill and dig for dig, trading points until Northeastern finally won the marathon set 32-30 after capitalizing on one of many BC errors throughout the last half of the set.
Northeastern took the early lead in the third set and quickly raced out to 11-7. BC seemed unable to find the open court, with even heavy hitters like Topor struggling to get hits past Northeastern’s athletic front court. Many of the Eagles’ shots were either blocked right back at the hitter or saved by a great defensive play from the Huskies. The Eagles’ defense was scrappy, but struggled to contain a potent Husky offense, and BC lost the set quickly 25-16.
“We were too comfortable in this match,” head coach Chris Campbell said. “We have done a nice job lately of pushing hard, but we did not show up ready to compete.”
On Friday night, the Eagles made the short drive over to Cambridge to take on the Harvard Crimson. The Crimson had been struggling, losing five matches in a row after their season-opening win. But the outcome of this match couldn’t be determined just by looking at the teams’ respective records. Harvard, though it had been swept in five of its losses, often played very tight and very close sets against its opponents. Many were decided by fewer than five points, and Harvard was ready to show BC what it was made of.
The Eagles got out to a 2-0 lead early, thanks to kills from Anna Skold and Julia Topor. BC was up by as many as six points through the middle of the set, propelled by an even mix of Harvard errors and Eagle put aways. The two teams traded points for the remainder of the set, with the Crimson getting to within one point, but a late kill by Topor and a Harvard service error gave BC the first set, 25-23.
The second set began much like the first, with the Crimson and the Eagles going back and forth, trading kills. It was a much cleaner set for Harvard, reflected in its 6-1 run midway through the set that it turned into an 18-11 lead. The Eagles, not to be held down for long, stormed back with their own 6-1 run, but couldn’t sustain the tempo. Harvard went on to win the second set 25-19.
Harvard jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the third set, but the set belonged to BC as it won 25-17 quickly and dominantly. BC had 15 kills to Harvard’s 11, and only committed three errors throughout the set. The Eagles had an outstanding hitting percentage of .444, compared to Harvard’s .207, which certainly guided BC to the dominant set win.
The fourth set, though relatively close at 25-20, was all Harvard. The Crimson ran out to an early 10-5 lead, which forced BC to use its first timeout. While the Eagles fought back to tie the set at 12, and then take a brief lead at 13-12, Harvard wouldn’t let up. The Crimson took the lead back with five straight points, and then cruised to the end of the set.
For the third time in four matches, a BC match came down to a fifth and deciding set. This time, however, the outcome would not be in the Eagles’ favor. BC had two opportunities to put the match away and gain another win, but Harvard was crafty and managed to fend off the match points. The Eagles could not find a late push, and the Crimson won the final set 17-15, a disappointing loss for BC against a team that, on paper, should have provided an easy win.
These ups and downs have plagued BC all season.
“We have not been very consistent—there are times when we serve well and there are times that we block well,” Campbell said. “There needs to be a mental shift to make it our norm.”
After 10 non-conference games, BC begins its play in the Atlantic Coast Conference this Friday with a match against Syracuse.
“We are not a huge team in the ACC, but if we are disciplined, play well in transition, and have a good out-of-system offense, we will have a path to success,” Campbell said.
Featured Image by Taylor Perison / Heights Staff