There is no doubt that the Cornell volleyball team is very much in the mix for its first Ivy League championship since 1993. With 3-0 home wins over both Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, the Red (14-6, 8-2 Ivy) has climbed into a first-place tie atop the league with the Crimson.
Earlier in the season, the Red fell to Harvard in a tight match that could have gone either way. Friday’s match, however, was entirely different, as Cornell dominated en route to a 3-0 (30-24, 30-26, 30-12) victory.
“We watched film of us versus Harvard and we saw what we didn’t do well and what areas they had success against us,” said junior co-captain Kelly Kramer. “We changed a few things to shut down some of their big hitters and move the ball around to where their defense wasn’t.”
The Red received several standout performances. Junior Rachel Adomat led the team with a match-high 14 kills, while Kramer paced the defense with 19 digs. Sophomore Elizabeth Bishop recorded yet another double-double with 10 kills and 18 digs of her own.
Laura Mahon served as the lone bright spot for Harvard with a 10-kill, 20-dig performance. No other Crimson player had more than seven kills. But more importantly, the Red held 2002 Ivy League Player of the Year Kaego Ogbechie in check all night long, limiting her to a .000 hitting percentage for the match.
While the Red only hit .217, its cohesive defensive play was too much for Harvard. Cornell outblocked its opponent 10-1 and limited it to an abysmal 0.78 hitting percentage. In the third game, Harvard scored only 12 points, the lowest total by a Red opponent all year.
“I think it was the best game of the season so far,” Kramer said. “Everything just came together. We played as a team and attacked their weaknesses very well.”
After the emotional victory a night earlier, the Red did not show any signs of a letdown against Dartmouth on Saturday, as the team cruised to another 3-0 victory. The Green dropped to 2-8 (5-15 overall), staying ahead of only Columbia by one game.
Cornell easily won each of the first two games, but had to finish Dartmouth off in comeback fashion in Game 3. After falling behind 28-26, the team rolled off four points in a row to complete the perfect weekend.
“Dartmouth played very well,” Kramer said. “In the third game when we were behind, we showed how far we have come with our mental game and being able to come back and win.”
The Red was led by junior Heather Young, who recorded 13 of the team’s 16 blocks, just one shy of the school record. Young also added nine kills and five digs to an already impressive effort.
In the match, Dartmouth’s Kathryn Hirsch put together a rare triple-double performance with 12 kills, 12 digs, and 22 assists. However she received little help from her teammates, as the Green only hit a combined .131.
With the sweep this weekend, the Red has put itself in very good position to end the season atop the league, as it has four matches remaining on its schedule. If the Red is able to win out, the best Harvard can do is force a one-match playoff for an NCAA tournament berth.
“We are trying to keep our mental focus and team unity that we had this weekend,” Kramer said. “It would be nice if another team beat Harvard, but we are just worrying about our schedule and taking it one match at a time, knowing every one is a must-win situation.”
Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Staff Writer