It’s lonely at the top – and that’s how the Cornell volleyball team likes it.
After sharing the 2004 title with three other squads, the Red (12-3, 5-0 Ivy) is making a strong case for taking the championship, notching identical, 3-0, victories over Princeton (10-5, 2-3 Ivy) and Penn (6-9, 3-2 Ivy) this past weekend to gain sole possession of first place in the Ivy League standings.
“We haven’t been there before, so it’s fun,” said Cornell head coach Deitre Collins after beating the Quakers Saturday night.
The Red knocked off its first challenger when it shut out Princeton Friday night by scores of 30-17, 30-24, and 30-26. After earning Ivy League Player of the Week honors last week for the first time in her career, junior outside hitter Joanna Weiss led the attack for the Red against the Tigers with 11 kills, hitting .474. Classmate Elizabeth Bishop added 13 digs and eight kills, while sophomore setter Amy Gordon contributed 30 assists and six digs. Senior co-captain Kelly Kramer continued her stellar defensive play in the back, notching a team-high 19 digs.
“We definitely wanted to come out and beat them again in three,” said senior co-captain Whitney Fair. “We knew they were going to come out strong against us because we beat them three times last year, so we wanted to be consistent.”
The Tigers could barely muster an attack in the first game, in which they hit -.021, but recovered down the stretch and refused to let Cornell run away with the match. The Red used a 7-0 run in the middle of game two to gain a winning edge, and although Princeton was within striking distance several times in the third game, Cornell was able to rally and stay ahead.
“They do a lot, they’ve got some nice size, they’ve got some good, hard hitters, and they played defense and handled the ball well,” said Princeton head coach Glenn Nelson. “Last year, they might have had some good hitters, but they didn’t really handle the ball that well. Now they’ve got the whole deal.”
Lindsey Ensign and Parker Henritze had 10 kills each for the Tigers, while Henritze added 12 digs on the defensive end. Jenny McReynolds added 19 digs of her own, while Jenny Senske paced Princeton with 40 assists.
In Saturday’s match against the Quakers, it was a similar story, as the Red reeled off 30-18, 30-17, and 30-26 wins while holding Penn to a .000 hitting percentage in the first two games. The Cornell squad used a deep and balanced attack to cement its undefeated record at home, as junior outside hitter Thais Mirela recorded her second double-double of the year with 11 kills and 14 digs, four other players reached double digits in either kills or digs, and Gordon had another strong night, handing out 38 assists. Weiss and senior middle blocker Heather Young had 10 kills each, and Kramer and sophomore defensive specialist Kara Zaragoza had 19 and 14 digs, respectively.
“I don’t think Princeton or Penn came in and played the best that they could play, so we were kind of missing focus in that third game,” Collins said. “We didn’t play as clean as I like to play, so the good part is if we can win like this, we still know we can get better.”
Penn, which saw its own undefeated league mark crumble Friday night, losing a 3-2 match to Columbia in New York, was led by Cara Thomason’s 21 digs and team-high seven kills. Linda Zhang chipped in with 23 assists and Elizabeth Hurst added 16 digs of her own.
The Red will defend its first-place position next weekend, when it faces seventh-place Dartmouth and last-place Harvard on the road.
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor