All five of them came into the Red volleyball program as freshmen, wide-eyed and eager to receive some playing time. Although one of them fell asleep during a pregame meeting in 2002, somehow, everyone knew that one day, they would be an intimating group to face on the court. Now, seniors Rachel Adomat, Whitney Fair, Kristen Hughes, Kelly Kramer, and Heather Young terrorize opposing squads inside Newman Arena on a frequent basis, often forgetting the times when they were once newcomers to Cornell.
They have experienced three winning seasons, earned numerous individual awards, and won a co-Ivy League championship. Yet, the only thing left that is missing in their list of achievements is sole possession of the league crown, which earns them a NCAA tournament berth.
“We’ve worked together in season, during the off-season, year round now for four years,” Young said. “We came in with good players ahead of us as freshmen and because of that, we learned to work our butts off and I think we’ve done that. Last year was a good year, but this year is our time to take it to the top.”
Before the start of the season, Kramer and Fair were named co-captains for the second-straight year in a row by head coach Deitre Collins. Both players have re-written the Cornell record books in their previous seasons. Fair’s 12.17 and 11.85 assists per game in 2003 and 2004 are first and third for Cornell in a single season while Kramer’s 468 digs from last season have earned her first in digs and digs per game. Both players are making their way up the career leaders list in assists and digs. However, it is obvious that their worth to the team is beyond their individual statistics.
“They are very good leaders in that they lead by example on and off the court,” Collins said. “Since the day I got here, they have just been everything to this program. This past summer when I was going to pick captains for the upcoming season, I didn’t even open it up for discussion or a vote because as a coach, I knew that they were the type of people that I wanted to lead the team. That being said, any of the five seniors could have been captains.”
Adomat, a Houston native, finished last season eighth in the Ivy League with 3.32 kills per game and has started this season with a bang as she won MVP honors at last weekend’s Cornell Invitational tournament which saw Cornell sweep LaSalle, Colgate, and Butler. Adomat shined, as she recorded 32 kills against Colgate and Butler on the final day of competition.
“Whenever we need someone to step up and terminate balls, [she] always steps up,” Collins said. “She’s a blocker and a hitter and this past weekend really showed that.”
Young, regarded as one of the most complete players on the team, returns this season after her second team all-Ivy selection from last year which saw her finish second in the league with 1.38 blocks per game. Despite her dominance around the net, her versatility prompted Collins to experiment Young at other positions because of the great depth at the middle blocker position.
Hughes has been the key to the Red’s success, as she provides starting quality depth at every position. She ranks 10th in the Ivy League last season with 0.32 service aces per game and has taken on a more defensive role since coming into the program.
“With [Hughes], Liz Bishop, Kelly, and Thais Mirela, we have the best passing team that I’ve ever coached anywhere,” Collins said. “Kristen comes in and she plays the right back position, she is our backup libero, she can play left back, and she can even come in and block up front. She flies under the radar and it is unfortunate because she is so valuable in so many ways. She can do anything and she does it well.”
For the five girls who have played together for three years, there is an obvious bond that is shared at Newman Arena.
“We’re all so close and we know what to expect out of each other,” Hughes said. “We know each other’s game and we know what adjustments we need to make in order to have success. It’s a special thing because we’re truly a team in that we are all best friends on and off the court.”
Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Staff Writer