October 4, 2006

Volleyball Hopes for Third Title

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After opening its Ivy League schedule with a dominant, 3-0, win over Columbia last weekend, the volleyball team appears focused on winning its way to a third-consecutive Ivy League crown and a second-consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

[img_assist|nid=18756|title=Smashing play|desc=Senior Katie Rademacher (right) and classmate Alaina Town (left) attempt to block the shot of a Columbia player during the Red’s 3-0 win over the Lions last Saturday. Town had seven kills in the match.|link=popup|align=right|width=100|height=81]
With everyone shooting to topple to the defending conference champions and after several strong early season performances turned in by Ancient Eight foes, it looks as though the Red will have plenty of competition. Nevertheless, the Cornell team is confident that it can handle anything thrown its way.

“They are absolutely [gunning for us],” said junior co-captain Amy Gordon. “We did a good job setting a precedent for what other teams should expect from us after beating Columbia pretty forcefully. I think it showed that we are just as strong, if not stronger than we were a year ago. But, we’re definitely wearing a target on our backs.”

That pressure, though, has helped Cornell approach its schedule and practices with a renewed sense of intensity according to head coach Deitre Collins-Parker.

“There’s a visible change on the court now,” she said. “We’re playing with a lot more energy. We had a great practice today and we’ve been working hard.”

Gordon explained the shift in focus as a slight change in the Red’s mindset and approach between its early-season tournament contests and its league clashes. Whereas, the Red played as an underdog in many of those earlier matches, the team now feels pressure to win every conference showdown.

“We’ve been playing very focused and always expect to win, but in Ivy League play we know we should win and need to win every match,” she said. “It’s a subconscious difference; we know we need focus and precision for every game because every one is so important.”

Keeping up that intensity will be vital for Cornell as it heads into one of its toughest stretches of its Ivy schedule — a five-game road trip. This series of matches is especially important for the Red because, while it went undefeated at home a year ago, the team was merely 6-4 on the road.

Cornell will head to Brown and Yale this weekend before once again facing Columbia in New York City on Monday. A year ago, the Red used back-to-back road victories over the Bears and Bulldogs — including a comeback victory from two games down in New Haven — to setup its Ivy-clinching win in Ithaca the next weekend.

Though earlier in the season this time around, these matches should again play a major role in determining Cornell’s hopes for another conference championship.

“This weekend is big for us,” Collins-Parker said. “A win over Yale is big and Brown has played the spoiler role many times before. You actually can’t count out anyone in the Ivy League this year. Playing in the Ivy League is so fun and it’s always very competitive. We’re looking forward to this weekend’s matches and really excited to get going.”