This article appears in the 2007 edition of The Sun’s annual Student Guide.
Liz Bishop’s first reaction when she heard the news that she was the Sun’s Senior Athlete of the Year?
“You should have picked somebody else.”
It’s a typical reaction from Bishop, who is quick to credit teammates and coaches for the unprecedented success of her volleyball career at Cornell. But a quick look at her resume and hardware collection reveals that, despite the humble, almost embarrassed attitude, she has redefined what the Cornell name means in the Ivy League and across the nation when it comes to her sport.
Bishop is a two-time AVCA honorable mention All-American, the first player from Cornell to win that honor, and a three-time member of the Northeast All-Region team. She was the fifth player in Ivy League history to take home All-Ivy first team honors in four consecutive seasons, and became the first since Yale’s Rosie Wustrack in 1996-97 to take home the Player of the Year honors in consecutive seasons, which she did in her junior and senior campaigns.
But these aren’t the achievements Bishop brings up when asked to reflect upon her career in Ithaca. Instead, she mentions the three straight Ancient Eight crowns from 2004-06. Those titles helped the Red advance to the NCAA championship tournament twice and win Cornell’s first and second games ever in Hofstra in the first round of the last tournament.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my teammates,” Bishop said. “Volleyball is the ultimate team sport. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t believe it’s over.”
The sport has been a central part of Bishop’s life since grade school, and she says that is why she has been able to achieve so much on the court for Cornell.
“I was lucky. I played for a great club and a really good high school [in Portland, Ore.],” she said. “To have those basic fundamentals and to have so much game experience … that’s kind of an extra advantage that I have.”
This acute understanding of the game also stood out for former Cornell head coach Deitre Collins-Parker, a national champion during her own college career and a former Olympian.
“As far as the kids that I’ve coached, she was just a good college player,” Collins-Parker said. “She was not physically dominant by being tall or jumping extremely high. She just had a good feel for the game and that’s probably her defining attribute. … You couldn’t understand how she was able to do what she was able to do because on paper she was none of those things. She was an average athlete that excelled with what she had.”
Bishop agreed with this honest opinion, and said that it even became a joke between her and her coach. If Collins-Parker had been running the Cornell program when Bishop was applying to college, she teased, she would have been a walk-on instead of a recruit. Collins-Parker, who came to Cornell before Bishop’s sophomore season, disagrees.
“What a blessing to walk in and find an athlete like that on your doorstep,” Collins-Parker said. “It’s hard to find the words because she was so good. And not only was she good, she worked so hard and she played through so much that she was the ideal athlete you would want on your team.”
Despite dealing with a partially torn ACL and playing with a hip injury the past two years, Bishop managed to rewrite the Cornell record books. She has etched her name in the top-10 of eight different categories, most notably ranking first in career kills with 1,690, over 400 more than any other Cornell player. She is also third all-time in career digs (1,166), sixth in block assists and 10th in total blocks.
“I never would have thought coming here at all that those things would come into place,” Bishop said. “It all goes back to our team. We’re three-time Ivy League champions as a team, and that’s really what my whole goal was coming here freshman year and it just happened that I got all of these extra bonuses to go along too.”
The sport and her teammates will be constants even after graduation, as she plans to live with former teammate Whitney Fair ’06 next year in New York City and hopes to “dominate” the rec leagues when she’s not at her day job in Ralph Lauren’s executive training program. The family tradition will draw her back to the East Hill as well, since her younger brother will be a freshman trying to earn a spot throwing javelin for the track team.
“It’s been a great four years and I’m so lucky to have made the impact that I have,” Bishop said. “Cornell volleyball specifically has been the best experience I’ve had in college and probably my life, and I’ve just met so many wonderful people that it’s fun knowing that I’ve done that chapter and there’s new and exciting things to come.”