The volleyball team squeaked by Columbia to pick up its first Ivy League victory on Saturday afternoon at Newman Arena. After taking command in the first two sets (25-22, 25-18), Cornell dropped the next two (24-26, 20-25), only to come back and finish off the match with a 15-13 win.
After starting conference play with a road loss to the Lions, the Red exacted revenge to even up its record at 1-1. Cornell used a group effort to notch the close victory over Columbia with 15 players getting into the game and making contributions across the board. Sophomore Deveny Pula recorded 23 kills to go along with 18 digs, while junior Kelly Hansen and freshman Rachel D’Epagnier added 14 and 11 kills, respectively. D’Epagnier and Hansen also recorded 11 and six block assists, respectively. D’Epagnier’s 11 block assists were a career-high.
Junior Jordan Reeder took charge of the offense with a career-high 64-assist performance. Reeder also recorded 15 digs while sophomore libero and Sun contributor Taylor Nieman also had a career-high performance with 27 digs. Senior captain Erin McCarthy also recorded 14 digs.
Although Columbia raced to a 9-3 lead, Cornell came back to tie it and ended up closing out a tight victory in the first set. The Red seemed to gain momentum as the team was up by eight points en route to taking the second set. Cornell looked more focused and energetic from the start.
“We talked about being more aggressive, both offensively and defensively,” said head coach Sarah Bernson said.
“We kept putting pressure on them,” Hansen said.
At that point, after taking the first two sets, Cornell was feeling good going into its third set. However, Columbia took the 10 minute-intermission time to gather itself and came back to win the third and fourth sets.
“We knew changes were coming,” Bernson said.
“They were definitely adjusting to how aggressive we were,” Hansen said. “By being aggressive, we were going to make a couple errors that way, and they happened to capitalize on them.”
In the decisive last set, Cornell jumped out to a 3-0 lead but the score quickly became tied at 4-4. After a few mistakes from Cornell, the score was 9-7 in favor of Columbia. Bernson called a timeout to remind the team not to panic and play its game even with the score against them.
“We talked about trusting each other and your teammates with their responsibilities,” Bernson said. “We had to trust and be confident in ourselves. We had to make sure that we didn’t freak out.”
“We just played our game,” Hansen said. “At the end, we were really working hard and pushing each other to hit 15 first.”
Cornell and Columbia traded points until it was 13-11 in favor of the Lions, but the Red gathered itself to score four unanswered points to finish the game. The last three points came off of two kills from freshman Janel Forte and a kill from junior Madeleine Przybyl. The Red seemed to have picked up its intensity at the right time.
“It has been a challenge for us to be consistent with our energy level,” Bernson admitted. “But we were better at it this game.”
Cornell had a different mindset throughout the entire game, and it seemed to keep the team poised and relaxed even while the score ended up being very close near the end.
“We were focused on the next point,” Hansen said. “We weren’t looking at the overall game and trying to win the game. We were focusing on each next play and that helped determine the outcome of the game.”
Original Author: Wankyu Lee