American falls to Harvard in hard-fought Saturday match
Crimson come from behind to defeat Eagles in five sets
The Eagles, looking to bounce back following the beat-down from the University of Oregon the night prior, fought for over two and a half hours against the Crimson.
Early in the match, AU took control of the game. The Eagles opened the first set with four unanswered points, but the Crimson quickly responded to tie it up. It didn’t take too long for Harvard to get their legs beneath them, and it became clear the match would need all five sets to declare a winner. Despite the teams going back and forth evenly late in the first set, AU was energized. The Eagles pushed through a comeback attempt by Harvard and took the first set, 25-21.
The second set started the same as the first, and the Eagles took an early lead. Heading into a timeout, the Eagles were up by seven points, 9-2, with barely a peep from Harvard’s side of the net. AU took the second set commandingly, 25-13, and it seemed the Crimson had rolled over and were barely responding to any attack the Eagles gave them.
However, the tone shifted in the third set when Harvard opened on a 4-0 run, and while the Eagles eventually did claw their way back to tie it up at 7-7, Bender Arena went dead silent as junior Asli Celikkol went down, grabbing her ankle with intense pain apparent on her face.
Celikkol was able to support her own weight as she walked off the court with an athletic trainer and eventually did return to the game in the fourth set, but the injury scare seemed to deflate AU’s squad. The Crimson rode their building momentum through the end of the set and despite the Eagles trying their best to hang on, they dropped the third 20-25.
The fourth set was defined by long rallies and even scores. Both teams went back and forth exchanging points without taking a commanding lead at any point.
In the middle of the third set, AU appeared frustrated, and the Eagles began arguing on the court as players remained motionless while open lanes to prevent Harvard points remained unfilled. Despite this, the score remained even until late in the set when the Crimson went up a set-high three points to win it 22-25, forcing the Eagles to go to five sets.
The fifth and final set carried over the confusion and disorganization the Eagles experienced in the fourth. Every time the Harvard squad scored, AU seemed stunned and unable to respond.
Although the Eagles struggled through the fifth, they charged back into the set and took a lead on their unanswered six-point run fueled by an impressive block by sophomore Katie Putney and two service aces by graduate student Chiara Bosetti. Despite being two points from victory at 13-11, AU was unable to score for the rest of the match as Harvard scored four in a row to take the set and the match.
Junior Zeynep Uzen, who was recently named a Patriot League Preseason All-League team player, once again had an impressive performance, despite the late-game collapse. She put up a career-high 23 kills along with 17 digs as a part of her fourth double-double of the 2021 season.
Head coach Barry Goldberg praised Uzen postgame along with Celikkol and Bosetti. “We had a couple of good standouts in this game today,” Goldberg said. “We’re getting better for sure.”
Goldberg also said that matches against teams outside of the Patriot League contribute to the team’s build toward league play, starting this weekend. “Every game we’ve played until now is all about us getting to these Patriot League events,” he said.
Goldberg finished by focusing on the growth of the team this season, saying that the team played “exceedingly better” against Harvard than he had seen in previous matches.
The Eagles returned to Bender Arena on Saturday to face Colgate and begin Patriot League play.