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Men’s Volleyball Begins 2014 Season at UCSB 50th Asics Invitational

The Crimson travel to California to begin its 34th season of action (photo courtesy Mark Selders).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard men's volleyball team will open its 34th season of play this weekend at the UCSB 50th Asics Invitational in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Crimson, who is receiving votes in the ACVA national poll, will compete in round robin action on Friday, Jan. 3 that will determine its opponent on Saturday, Jan. 4. Matches each day are set to begin at 1 p.m. EST.

Ivy League Digital Network
For the first time ever, each of Harvard's 11 home matches will be streamed in HD quality featuring a live scoreboard, new graphics package and play-by-play commentary through the Ivy League Digital Network. Subscribers to the network can watch matches both live and On-Demand at their convenience, and will have access to live and On-Demand content for all Harvard athletics events throughout the duration of their subscription.

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UCSB 50th Asics Invitational
The invite features 10 squads broken into two five-team pools. On Friday, each team will take the court at the Thunderdome against the four other teams within its bracket in round-robin, best of three set matches. The Crimson will compete in bracket 'A' with No. 8 UCSB, No. 5 Stanford, No. 15 Cal Baptist and Pacific. Saturday the teams will be seeded based off record from pool-play and will take the court at Rob Gymnasium against the corresponding team in the other bracket. For example, the best record in bracket 'A' will versus the team with the best record from bracket 'B'. For a complete schedule of the invitational, click here.

A Year Ago
In 2013, Harvard made its first appearance in the EIVA championship match and finished second. The Crimson achieved its highest national ranking on Feb. 25 at No. 14 in the AVCA Division I-II Poll. Harvard posted its third 18-win season with an 18-9 overall mark and took third in the EIVA regular season with a 10-4 record that included the first program defeat of EIVA leader Penn State, 3-0, and second victory over a ranked opponent under head coach Brian Baise. The team's 18 wins tied the third-highest total in program history.

As a result of the team's success in 2013, four Crimson earned All-EIVA accolades, the most since the 1993 squad, including DJ White (first team), Caleb Zimmick (second team), Rob Lothman '13 (second team) and Kyle Rehkemper (second team).

Look Who's Back
Harvard returns 10 letterwinners to the court in 2014 including two-time All-EIVA first team selection DJ White. White, a junior outside hitter, carried the third highest hitting percentage (.314) in the EIVA, which also ranked 26th in the nation, and led the team with 3.19 kps, good for seventh in the league. Classmate Caleb Zimmick, who was an All-EIVA second team selection a year ago, led the EIVA and ranked 10th in the NCAA with a hitting percentage of .374. The middle blocker produced the ninth highest blocks per set average in the country (1.24), to rank third in the conference.

Returning to Cambridge for their final season are seniors Kyle Rehkemper (0.87 bps), an All-EIVA second team performer in 2013, Will Chambers (1.42 kps), Chris Gibbons (2.28 dps), Nick Madden (2.90 kps) and Michael Owen (1.39 kps).

Also returning for the Crimson are sophomores Alister Bent, Branden Clemens (2.33 kps) and Alec Scholssman.

New to the Scene
Three members of the Class of 2017 have been added to the roster for 2014; Nick Bendell, Sam Murphy and Casey White. Bendell, a 6-foot-2 setter from Orland Park, Ill., comes to Cambridge as a three-time All-Southeast Suburban conference selection while White, a 6-foot-4 outside hitter, a native of Hermosa Beach, Calif., joins the squad after winning a state championship. Murphy makes the trip to Harvard from Winnipeg, Manitoba where he was named Male Athlete of the Year at Vincent Massey three times as a 5-foot-9 libero.  

Related Link: Men's Volleyball Adds Bendell and White for 2014

Captaining the Crimson
For the sixth straight season, a duo will serve as co-captains of the men's volleyball team as seniors Chris Gibbons and Nick Madden take on the leadership responsibilities. The pair is the 24th set of Crimson captains to guide the squad since Arthur T. Houlihan III '82 and Walter H. Trumbell Jr. '81 served as the program's first co-captains in Harvard's inaugural season, 1981. 

Pacing the Sidelines
Head coach Brian Baise returns for his sixth season at the helm of the Harvard men's volleyball program. Baise owns a 61-52 record on the sidelines and has guided the Crimson to back-to-back 18 win seasons, which tie for third most victories in Harvard history. Under his guidance the Crimson has been ranked twice in the AVCA national rankings. The 2012 EIVA Bob Sweeney Coach of the Year has mentored eight All-EIVA honorees and has coached four AVCA Academic Award winning teams.

Assistant coach Ahmed Ibrahim, who helped Harvard to unprecedented success in 2012 and 2013, returns to the sideline for his third season.

Sideline Addition
A new face has been added to the Harvard volleyball staff as Jeffrey Aucoin joins both the men's and women's volleyball teams as assistant coach. He comes to Cambridge after spending last season as an assistant coach at the University of New Hampshire where he earned his bachelor's degree in kinesiology in 2011 and his master's in physical education in 2013.

In the fall, Aucoin helped the women's team to a 14-9 overall record and 9-5 against the Ivy League, good for second place in the conference standings. The Crimson's 14 total wins and nine conference victories marked the most for the program since 2004, while its 9-2 record at home was a program best.

Related Link: Jeffrey Aucoin Named Men's and Women's Volleyball Coaching Assistant

Preseason Pick
Coming off an appearance in the EIVA Tournament championship, Harvard has been picked third in the 2014 EIVA Preseason Poll. The Crimson's third place pick is its highest ever finish in the poll with 23 points.

Defending champion Penn State was chosen to repeat, receiving seven of the eight first-place votes for nine points while Princeton was selected second with a total of 20 points and the one remaining first-place vote. George Mason (32 points), St. Francis (Pa.) (38), NJIT (50), Sacred Heart (52) and Rutgers-Newark (64) rounded out the preseason rankings.

Related Link: Men's Volleyball Tabbed Third in EIVA Preseason Poll

Season Openers
Harvard has won 9 of the last 14 season openers, including three straight, to hold an impressive 20-13 record (.606) in the first match of the season. Under current head coach Brian Baise the Crimson is 3-2 on opening day. 

Coming Up
Harvard travels to Quebec City for a two-game series against international foe Laval, Jan. 8-9.