Eagles Rally Past Harvard in Five-Set Thriller

boston college volleyball

Over the course of the last three years, Harvard has had the edge on Boston College volleyball. That’s not to say the games haven’t been close, though—the Crimson needed five sets to win each match. On Wednesday night in Cambridge, it was yet another five-set thriller.

This time, however, the Eagles were victorious, snapping a three-year skid with a 3-2 victory over their crosstown foes. After dropping the first set, BC (7-3) took the next two in commanding fashion. Harvard (2-5) fought hard to grab the nail-biting fourth set, but BC showed some resilience and bounced back to win the final frame.

Sophomore Jewel Strawberry stood out in this contest. Strawberry was very active in both facets of the game, notching a match-high 16 kills, 46 attacks, and 16 digs. Junior Clare Naughton and Senior Cat Baldo also chipped in offensively, adding 14 and 10 kills, respectively. Senior Jane DeJarld was key in facilitating, leading the Eagles with 25 assists. Errors were relatively even for both sides, with the Crimson just edging out BC, 24-21. 

In the first set, Harvard grabbed the lead and never let it go. After an initial back-and-forth exchange, in which the Crimson pulled ahead, Eagles head coach Jason Kennedy called a timeout with his team trailing, 13-7, looking to regroup and shift the momentum of the game. The reality turned out to be the opposite. BC was able to gain two points off Harvard errors, but the Crimson came back and scored five straight points to push their lead to 18-9. Harvard went on to win the set, 25-15, capped off with a kill by Mindy Mabry. Mabry finished with four kills in the set, while her teammate, Sope Adeleye, added four of her own. 

The second frame was an entirely different story, as BC ran away with the set by a score of 25-12. The two teams battled from the start, resulting in two lead changes and five ties through the first 16 points. But once a Strawberry kill broke an 8-8 tie, it was all Eagles. BC maintained a rampant attack from start to finish, closing out the set by winning the last eight points. Harvard was completely overwhelmed, posting a woeful -.042 hit percentage. Strawberry and Naughton dominated with 11 combined kills between the pair. Senior Jill Strockis added three aces in the set as well.

The third frame was a game of runs in which the Eagles came out on top. After building a 9-5 lead, BC scored six points in a row. Harvard responded with four straight—featuring two aces from Ashley Wang—to make it 15-9, but that was as close as they would get. BC generally controlled the tempo the rest of the way, winning, 25-17. 

The fourth set went down to the wire, and Harvard came back to force a fifth. The Eagles remained in front for most of the game, though the size of their lead peaked at three—BC couldn’t seal the deal in the fourth frame. A Mabry ace gave the Crimson their  first lead since being up 4-3 earlier in the set. BC then fell behind, 23-21, but fought back to tie it thanks to a kill by Strawberry and an ace by junior Amaka Chukwujekwu. Ultimately, after a Harvard timeout, the Crimson took the next two points and the set, 25-23, on two BC errors. Eight errors in the frame—including four serving—hurt the Eagles greatly.

As many could have expected, the fifth and final set was nothing short of entertaining. Momentum flowed between the two sides, but BC was able to finish Harvard off in the end, 20-18. The Eagles looked to be in control at first, scoring five straight points, with Strawberry giving them a 14-9 lead. Harvard then surged back with a 6-0 run—featuring three kills from Adeleye—to pull ahead, 15-14. Soon after, the teams knotted the game up at 18 points apiece. Finally, kills from Chukwujekwu and Strawberry iced the match.

Escaping Harvard with a win over a team that has posed problems the last few years is undoubtedly a boost of confidence for Kennedy’s team. Now, with back-to-back wins, BC will have a chance to extend that streak in the Rhode Island Challenge this coming weekend—an event that features the likes of Bryant, Rhode Island, and Albany. The Eagles have fared well against local opponents under Kennedy, and they’ll need the victories here ahead of the perils of conference play if they aim to improve on last season’s 15-15 mark.

Featured Image by Brianna Foley / BC Athletics