SPRINGFIELD, Mass.. – The final match of the Stevenson men's volleyball three matches in three days was not an easy one. As just 24-hours after the battle with the number one ranked team in the land Springfield College. Who did the Mustangs see on the other side of the net tonight none other than Division I and Ivy League powerhouse Harvard University. Stevenson did not seem fazed by seeing such a well-known name on the other side of the court, as the Mustangs defeated the Crimson 3-1 in the consolation match of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic at Springfield College.
Stevenson (5-5), got back to .500 taking the match by set scores of 25-21, 25-22, 25-22, and 25-21.
Freshman Garrett Weigel led the way for the Mustangs with 16 kills, four blocks, and four digs while hitting .316. Junior Landon Shorts was also a force adding 14 kills, nine digs, and six aces posting a .303 attack percentage. Freshman Logan Smiley continued his strong rookie campaign chipping in six kills, six digs, and three blocks. The upperclassmen duo of junior Jason Gardner and senior Alex Klunk each picked up four kills. Freshman Aleks Melbardis handed out 41 assists and grabbed two blocks.
Harvard (1-6) was paced by ten kills each from Riley Moore and Jack Heavey, they also combined for a total of six blocks. The Crimson also got eight apiece from Trevor Dow and Erik Johnsson. Marko Kostich dished out 40 assists in the losing effort.
The Mustangs got out to a strong start in the first set with kills from Weigel and Shorts, as well as a Shorts ace opened up an early 6-2 lead. With the score at 7-3 Stevenson, Harvard snagged the next three points to get back to within one 7-6. A kill by Dow was quickly answered by one from Shorts and the margin remained at one 9-8. The combination of kills from Weigel and Smiley allowed the Mustangs to embark on a 4-1 run to go in front 13-9. The Crimson dug in and took three of the next four themselves to close the gap to 14-12. A service error by Adam Gordon made the score 16-13, and then a pair of kills from Shorts opened it up to 18-13. Harvard would go on a 4-1 push of their own to cut the deficit down to 19-17 leading to a Stevenson timeout. The Mustangs were sparked by the brief rest as they used a 4-1 spurt aided by two Shorts aces and a Smiley kill to take the margin to five at 23-18. Smiley would pick a kill on a feed from Melbardis to end the set 25-21.
Set number two opened up in the opposite way from the first as this time it was the Crimson getting out to a 3-1 edge. The frame would go back and forth for the next nine points with Harvard putting the only string of consecutive points together. With the score at 9-6 in favor of the Ivy leaguers, Stevenson rallied getting the next three with a pair of Weigel kills leading the way to knot things up at 9-9. The Crimson used a 5-2 push helped out by three Mustangs errors to regain a 14-11 edge. Stevenson did not stay down for long as two straight aces from Smiley and another Weigel kill put them back in front 16-14. A kill from Shorts gave the Mustangs a two-point advantage, but the Crimson picked up the following two and the score was even again at 18-18. Gardner and Weigel added two more kills to their totals as part of a 4-1 Stevenson run to recapture the lead 22-19. Kills by Klunk and Shorts coming from Melbardis assists took the second 25-22.
The Mustangs began the third set strong once again steaking themselves to a 4-1 edge. However, the Crimson came storming back picking up the ensuing four points to grab their first lead of the frame 5-4. With the score level at 7-7, Harvard took four of the next five jumping in front 11-8. Stevenson then went on an impressive 8-3 run to go up 16-14. During that push Shorts added two kills, Melbardis had an ace, and Gardner and Weigel each chipped in a kill. The Mustangs held the two-point edge all the way to 22-20, but consecutive kills from Johnsson tied the score 22-22. Harvard used that momentum to take the following three points and the set 25-22.
Stevenson continued their fast starts to the sets in the fourth as they opened up an early 6-2 lead, using two kills from Weigel and two aces by Shorts. The Crimson then responded with five straight to grab their first lead of the frame 7-6. With the score at a draw 10-10, the Mustangs used a 4-2 sprint ending on a Heavey attack error to take a 14-12 edge. Five of the next eight would go the way of Harvard and the tight back-and-forth set continued tied again at 17-17. Kills by Shorts and Smiley capped a 3-0 push and handed Stevenson a 20-17 advantage. The Crimson got the deficit to two 23-21, after an attack error from Klunk. However, the rally would come to a halt as a kill from Smiley and an error from Heavey ended the set and the match 25-21.
The Mustangs as a team hit .244 on 44 kills, while Harvard hit .214 and totaled 49 kills. At the service line, Stevenson held a slim edge with nine aces to the Crimson seven. The Mustangs also racked up 17 blocks with Harvard only getting ten.
The Mustangs will return to conference play on Wednesday, February, 14 for a Valentine's Day matchup with Alvernia University at Owings Mills Gym. First serve against the Golden Wolves is set for 7pm.