The Cornell volleyball team had an eventful weekend of Ivy play, as the Red celebrated its senior night during its last two home games against Harvard and Dartmouth. The Red struggled to hold down Harvard in what became a 3-1 loss, but the women managed to bounce back with a 3-0 sweep against Dartmouth the following day.
Against Harvard, the Red seemed as if it had things under control. Cornell came out of the gate looking strong as ever, putting the Crimson away 25-19 in the first set. Unfortunately for the Red, Harvard fired back with three consecutive wins to close out Cornell’s hot start, 25-20, 25-19 and 25-19 respectively.
“We did not play well against Harvard,” said head coach Trudy Vande Berg. “We had moments of greatness but I think [we] started to put pressure on ourselves and started to struggle.”
The weekend leaves Cornell in a three-way tie with Penn and Harvard, sitting in fourth place among the Ancient Eight and the women believe that in order to improve going forward, it is imperative to stick to its own game plan.
“I think something that is really important for our team is that we need to keep working hard whether the game is going our way or not,” added junior Kiley McPeek. “We need to keep focusing on taking care of our side of the court and the skills we do well.”
The team knows that when it sticks to its gameplan, it is more poised to close out tight games. The women nearly doubled Harvard in errors and had a much lower hitting percentage of .084, compared to the Crimson’s .199.
Nonetheless, Cornell rivaled Harvard in kills and assists, and had twice as many aces in its losing effort. These statistics, as well as others noted by the players, are key reasons the Red could have been position for an undefeated weekend.
“When we served aggressively Harvard was predictable so we were able to contain their big hitters,” coach Vande Berg added.
Despite the loss, women of Cornell volleyball know they need to take the lessons learned forward in order to finish the season strong.
“I think our serving was really effective against Harvard and gave us some really good opportunities,” added senior middle blocker Macey Wilson. “Harvard was a difficult game to lose, but I think we learned a lot from that game and came back to beat Dartmouth easily.”
These lessons resonated the very next day in the sweep of Dartmouth.
“We needed to focus on the things we can control and what we know the other team will do in order to win points,” said coach VandeBerg. “We did a much better job of that on Saturday.”
Impressive efforts were shown by the Red’s two seniors — Wilson and Alyssa Phelps — as well as junior Kit McCarty and freshmen Jenna Phelps. These four managed to have hitting percentages about .350, boosting the team’s entire percentage to .324 for the night.
“I’m glad we pulled out the sweep against Dartmouth for [seniors] Macey and Alyssa,” coach Vande Berg said. “We did what we needed to do and controlled our side of the net which was our focus for that match.”
Cornell looks to close out its 2016 season with the most wins in a single season since 2008. The Red will travel to top Ivy-seed Princeton on Nov. 11 and will head to Penn the following day.
“Penn and Princeton will both be tough matches this weekend and will be really important for us,” McPeek said. “We have a great opportunity to close out the season on a high note and show the quality of volleyball we are able to produce.”
The women will enter these matches with a positive attitude, excited for the challenges that lie ahead.
“Princeton is a good matchup for us and if we continue to get better at the things we have been focusing on it will be a good match,” added coach VandeBerg. “Penn is very tough at their place, we will have to execute and play with confidence.”