Cornell athletes are prepared to miss out breaks. A fall sport misses fall break, a winter sport misses much of winter break, and a spring sport misses spring break. With these misses all over the place, an athlete wants something to show for it, just to know wasn’t for nothing.
The volleyball team is preparing to sacrifice this weekend’s time off to stake its claim to the 2001 Ivy League crown. Tonight in New York City, Cornell (8-4, 0-0 Ivy) will battle regional foe Columbia (6-3, 0-0) in both teams’ conference opener. With the elimination of the season-ending conference tournament, the league will now use a double round-robin format. The champion will be the squad with the best conference record at the end of the year.
Consequently, the importance of each match is heightened. Last year, a team’s record in the league was meaningful only for seeding in the tournament. Every team made it into the single-elimination playoffs, regardless of the regular season.
This year, one win or loss could make the difference between a first or second place finish. There is no longer the opportunity to come thundering from behind to take the crown over the course of a single weekend of play.
The Red travels to New York City this evening to play the Lions. Columbia is coming off an eighth-place finish in the league last season despite going 16-13 overall. A 1-6 showing in the Ivies combined with the inexperience of nine new players made Columbia’s quest for a title especially difficult, as did a first round match against eventual champion Princeton.
However, the Lions should be a stronger team this year. The squad has 12 out of 16 players returning, including all six starters. Among them is junior middle blocker Kathy Lavold. Named to the All-Ivy first team last year, this 6’2″ phenom has been the Ivy Player of the Week for the past two weeks, taking MVP honors in the Towson Invitational and the Connecticut State Tournament as well. Currently, Lavold leads the league with a .456 hitting percentage and is fourth in kills with 4.45 per game, leading her team in both categories. Additionally, she is averaging 1.17 blocks per game, also tops on the squad.
Sophomore outside hitter Madia Willis has also broken out as one of the Lions’ top players. Named to the All-Tournament teams from the Towson Invitational and Connecticut State Tournament for the past two weeks in a row, Willis is second on the team with a 3.69 kills per game (kpg) average.
Head coach Christie Jackson acknowledged that these two players are “leading the pack.”
As a team, the Lions are posting a .258 hitting mark and averaging 13.90 kpg. Columbia has committed a total of 142 errors on attacks over the course of 29 games, averaging 4.90 errors per game (epg).
Cornell, on the other hand, has a .214 hitting percentage, but compensates with a 14.63 kpg average. The Red has made 275 errors on attacks in 43 games, averaging 6.40 epg.
This year, Cornell has seen solid contributions from both ends of the bench. Senior outside hitter Jennifer Borncamp is second on the team with 3.31 kpg and 2.60 digs per game (dpg), while classmate Jamiee Reynolds is having a stellar year as setter in the place of injured sophomore Rachel Rice. Reynolds is averaging 2.07 dpg and a team best 10.88 assists per game.
Sophomore Debbie Quibell is leading the team with 3.74 kpg and 2.98 dpg. Reynolds was named last weekend’s Wagner College Invitational MVP, while Borncamp and Quibell were honored on the All-Tournament team.
In addition to winning, Jackson summarized the team’s goals as simply “to play solid and try to limit our errors.”
When asked if she would compensate to shut down Lavold at the net, Jackson said, “We know what [Columbia] runs and there really isn’t a need to rotate our line-up. I think everybody knows what [Columbia’s] best ball is.”
Cornell plays the Lions tonight at 7 p.m., and returns home on Sunday for a rematch at 1 p.m. in Newman Arena.
Archived article by Katherine Granish