December 1, 2005

Volleyball Prepares for NCAA Tourney

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While most students were coming back from Thanksgiving break, the volleyball team (19-5, 12-2 Ivy) was glued to the television, as it waited to see its name show up on the screen for the first time in 13 years on last Sunday’s selection show. Despite not being announced until the end of the program, Cornell was chosen to go head-to-head with Long Island (25-13, 8-0 Northeast) in a first round matchup tomorrow at Penn State’s Rec Hall.

“It was kind of nerve racking because our bracket was the last one to come up,” said head coach Deitre Collins. “We kept thinking that we were going to Notre Dame or Louisville, but our name didn’t come up. You kind of wish we weren’t in the same bracket as the No. 2 team in the country, but still, we’re there. That and we are playing a team that is at our level, so it’s exciting.”

After a regular season in which Cornell went undefeated at home and won sole possession of an Ivy League title, the goal now shifts from winning the conference to winning a game in the national tournament – a feat that no Cornell team has achieved since the tournament went to a 64-team format. Cornell’s last appearance was in 1993, when former head coach Merja Connolly’s team was swept by Nebraska in three games.

The feat seems more realistic now than ever, as Cornell was granted a second seed in a bracket of four. Along with Cornell and Long Island, the bracket contains the host school, powerhouse Penn State, and their opponent Binghamton, which is only in its fifth year of organized Division I volleyball.

“It’s definitely a testament to the Ivy League,” said Ivy League Player of the Year, junior Elizabeth Bishop. “In the past, Ivy League teams had to come out and play the Nebraskas or Penn States, so we are really excited to play Long Island. We don’t know much about them, but supposedly they have a lot of international players, which should be interesting.”

Despite being the Red’s first appearance in the postseason in over a decade, one person who certainly won’t be intimidated by the hype surrounding the big dance will be the squad’s second-year head coach. Collins knows what it is like to have success at the national tournament, as she was a part of two national championship teams at Hawaii.

Although she has a plethora of postseason experience, she admits that her time behind the bench is very different from when she was in action.

“I feel like it’s still all of our first times because it’s still my first time as a coach,” Collins said. “When I went [to the NCAA tournament] as a player, we were expected to be there, and if we didn’t win then we didn’t succeed. [At Cornell], we are excited about every step that we take because no one knows what to expect from our team except for us. Every step is enjoyable knowing that you are bringing people along that get better every year. ”

If it is to emerge victorious. the Red will need strong performances from Bishop and classmate Joanna Weiss. Bishop was unanimously voted Ivy League Player of the Year and earned her third straight first team All-Ivy honor after shattering the school’s career kills record with still another year left to play. Weiss earned first team All-Ivy honors for the first time in her career after breaking the school’s single season hitting percentage by a whopping 0.60 points.

Also awarded was the play of seniors Kelly Kramer and Heather Young, who both earned second team All-Ivy honors. Kramer broke all five major school records for digs, while playing every game for the Red this season. Young has been a vital part of Cornell’s defensive system, winning the Ivy League blocking title with 1.44 per game.

“Heather is a person who goes unnoticed in a game,” Collins said. “But every person who voted for her knows that she is an important part of who we are. She’s just been steady for my two years here.”

After last season’s unfortunate ending, which saw the Red stay home and watch Yale go dancing, the emotion surrounding the national tournament is at an all-time high. Although one goal has been achieved, the next step is now lined up for Cornell. Once Friday comes along, it will be back to business again.

“Being Ivy champs was the goal for us all season – outright,” Weiss said. “After last year, we had no intentions of sharing anything this year. Going to the tournament was our number one goal so it’s exciting just to be going and being the second seed out of four. We’re just looking forward to Long Island, so it’s all excitement. Once we get there it’s all about just getting on the floor and playing.”

Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Staff Writer