May 1, 2001

Cornell's Top 10 Freshmen

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They arrive on campus as wide-eyed young pups with hefty expectations already placed on their shoulders. As the year progresses, they stop being rookies, and they just start becoming part of the team. From Kate Varde’s homer-happy spring to Marisa Bianchi’s national title, they’ve proven that they’re no greenfoots. So, without further adieu, The Sun salutes the top 10 freshmen of this past year.

Michelle Allen, Women’s Lacrosse

With her excellent stick skills and dangerous shot, attacker Michelle Allen was an integral part of the women’s lacrosse team this season. Throughout the year, it seemed like Allen raised her level of play against the Red’s toughest opponents. She started off her Cornell career with a bang, scoring two crucial goals in a victory over then No. 14 ranked Penn State. In fact, Allen struck often in her first three games of the season, including a goal and two assists against Rutgers and two goals versus Columbia. Perhaps her biggest game of the year came against 15th-ranked Syracuse, in which she recorded her first career hat trick. On the year, the rookie was fifth on the team in points (18) and goals (15).

Ka’ron Barnes, Men’s Basketball

How about dropping in 18 points and dishing out five assists in his first collegiate basketball game? What about leading the team with 15 points against the defending national champs, Michigan St., in his second game? Well, Ka’ron Barnes did all that and more in his rookie season. Barnes started his career off with a bang, winning the first Ivy League Rookie of the Week award of the season, averaging 16 points over that span. He won the award on three other occasions, including the last week of the season, scoring 18.5 ppg, snatching 4.5 rpg, and dishing out 4.0 apg. Barnes led all Ivy freshmen in scoring at a 10.3 ppg clip. Proving that he was not merely an offensive player, Barnes was also 14th in the league in steals. In the final game of the year against Harvard, he gave a taste of what we can look forward to in the coming three years. He played perhaps his best game of the season, scoring a season high 21 points, while also grabbing five boards, and garnering seven assists.

Marisa Bianchi, Women’s Polo

Marisa Bianchi, a local product, arrived on East Hill as the most highly recruited polo player in the nation. Needless to say, she delivered the goods. Bianchi was given the opportunity to start early in the season when the Red’s veteran Melissa Riggs was abroad. However, the rookie played well enough to stay in the lineup even after Riggs’s return. She led the team in scoring in both games against Skidmore, accruing 10 goals in the first game and six in the second meeting. She also led the team with 13 goals against Yale in the first round of the Bill Field Invitational. With her valuable contributions, the women’s polo team won its second straight national championship.

Karen Force, Women’s Basketball

Karen Force became an instant force for the Cornell women’s basketball team this season. The rookie made an immediate splash, being named to the all-tournament team in the Army tournament for her outstanding play in her first two collegiate games. She was fourth in the team in scoring, averaging 8.7 points per game. However, she was even better in conference play, averaging 9.5 points per game and sinking the 3-ball at a 35.7% rate. She played her best ball of the season against the league’s top competition, Harvard and Penn. In a win over the Crimson, she played a brilliant all-around floor game, netting 10 points while securing five rebounds and handing out nine assists. Against Penn, she scored 12 points while grabbing six rebounds. She finished fourth in the Ivy League in assists and steals. For her excellent play, she was selected to the league’s all-rookie team and was also an All-Ivy honorable mention squad.

Rachel Goldberg, Gymnastics

Coming into the season, Rachel Goldberg was expected to give the gymnastics program a boost with her versatility. While she was not asked to perform in multiple events for most of the season, she excelled in her best event — the uneven bars. Throughout the season, she was consistently the team’s best performer on the bars, with a fourth place finish versus Penn and a third place performance against UMass. She also finished second on bars against MIT and Bridgeport, as well as second at the Big Red Invitational. Unquestionably, her biggest performance of the year came at the USAG National Championships, in which she won All American Honors for her fourth place finish on the vault.

Ryan Vesce, Men’s Ice Hockey

Ryan Vesce arrived on campus with great fanfare, having already captained the US-Select 17 team. The rookie forward, however, had trouble lighting the lamp early in the season, tallying his first goal in the eighth game of the campaign. Once Vesce regained his scoring touch though, opponents had a hard time containing the speedy forward. From November 25 through January 13, he scored at least one point in nine consecutive games, including back-to-back three-point performances versus Princeton and Ohio St. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the team came in the Red’s first playoff game against Princeton. With the team down 2-0 in the third period, the freshman stepped to the forefront and lit the lamp twice to send the game to overtime. He also picked up an assist in the second playoff game against the Tigers. On the year, he was second on the team with 28 points and tied for the team lead in assists with 20. He was awarded the team’s Greg Ratushny Award for being the freshman player who best exhibits enthusiasm for both the team and Cornell University, camaraderie with his teammates and his fellow students and promise for the future.

Debbie Quibell, Volleyball

Debbie Quibell was a second team All-Ivy selection in volleyball this season. She led the team with 3.77 kills per game, which also ranked third in the entire league. Her 400 kills left her just five shy of the all-time Cornell single season record. In addition to her spiking prowess, Quibell also led the team with her service game. She was tops in the league in both service aces (48) and service aces per game (.45). The brilliant rookie was also second on the Red with 2.87 digs per game. She was a clutch performer all season long, as evidenced by her team high 17 kills in the Ivy championship match versus Princeton.

Rachel Rice, Volleyball

Every team has a player that triggers the offense. The Utah Jazz has John Stockton, the St. Louis Rams have Kurt Warner and the Pittsburgh Penguins have Mario Lemieux. Here on East Hill, the volleyball team is lucky to have Rachel Rice. The rookie led the league in assists all year long, and ended with 1280 helpers. She also led the league in assists per game at 11.96. Both marks set Cornell single season records. With Rice at the helm, the offense recorded school records in kills and kills per game. Rice was in no way a one-dimensional player, as she was also fourth on the team in blocks (64) and blocks per game (0.60). Spectacular throughout the entire season, Rice saved her best for last. She led the team in assists in all three Ivy League tournament games, including a match-high 58 assists in the championship match. At the end of the season, the Ivy League awarded Rice with an honorable mention pick.

Sarah Sterman, Softball

Flamethrower Sarah Sterman has been one of the best pitchers in the Ivy League this season and has been a steady number two pitcher behind senior Nicole Zitarelli. After losing her first start of the year, Sterman won six of her next seven starts. She is tied for the team lead with 14 wins, is second on the squad in ERA (1.83) and is second in innings pitched (130). Perhaps her biggest
win of the year came against then undefeated Ivy foe Dartmouth. In the contest, Sterman pitched seven strong innings, allowing just seven hits and two earned runs. Her superb pitching this season is certainly one of the main reasons for Cornell’s championship run.

Kate Varde, Softball

Recruited to Cornell to play basketball, Kate Varde walked on to the softball team. Certainly, the Red is now ecstatic that she made the transition. Varde has been nothing less than spectacular in her first season, seemingly setting home run records weekly. She already has 13 home runs on the season, surpassing the previous single season mark of eight. In a crucial clash of undefeated teams, she set a single game Cornell record with three blasts against Dartmouth. The three round trippers in the game also tied an NCAA record. She currently leads the team in batting average, home runs, and RBIs and has certainly been an integral part of the Red’s championship season. She has won the Ivy League Rookie of the Week Award twice, and is certainly the front-runner for the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award.

Archived article by Alex Ip