After a weekend that saw the women’s volleyball team split a pair of matches with Columbia (9-6, 2-2 Ivy), holders of last season’s worst record in the Ivy League, Cornell (11-5, 3-1) needed to emerge from Friday and Saturday with victories.
And the victories the Red got were much more than simply notches in the win column.
On Friday night, the Red traveled to New Jersey for its first meeting with Princeton since last year’s Ivy championship match. Looking for revenge, and its first win against the Tigers since 1995, Cornell was prepared for battle.
“I watched film on them, and I wasn’t too worried about [the match],” head coach Christie Jackson said. “I didn’t think they were that good. I mean, they are always strong, but I wasn’t intimidated at all and I don’t feel the team was at all. They sort of wanted to avenge our [championship] loss.”
Opening the season with a four game loss to Pennsylvania, the Tigers (6-7, 0-3) looked vulnerable. The two-time defending league champs had dominated the league last year with a 6-1 record and had no significant losses to graduation. Princeton was not to be taken lightly.
In the first game, both teams looked sharp. Cornell and Princeton had .300 and .313 hitting percentages, respectively, and both committed only five errors. Despite the evenness, the Tigers took the round by a score of 30-21.
The second and third games saw the teams scrambling to recover from errors.
Cornell hit .094 and .167 over the two with 20 errors, while Princeton hit -.044 and .163 with 15 errors. Fortunately for the Red, it played better to take both games by scores of 30-28 and 31-29.
Princeton rebounded in the fourth game to hit .278, while the Red continued to slide with a -.051 mark and 11 errors. The Tigers forced a fifth round with a 30-17 win.
“I was nervous at that point because the fourth game was over really early,” Jackson said.
Remarkably, in the fifth game Princeton broke down and Cornell got its act together for a decisive 15-8 win that secured its victory. The Red dominated with a .318 hitting percentage and committed only one error, while the Tigers hit a miserable -.077 with six mistakes.
“The girls took control. They just really went out there and went after it,” Jackson said of the victory.
“That [win] was a great feeling. The first four games we didn’t play the best we could. But the fifth game, we finally played well as we know we can play. We jumped on them, and when it was over, it was the best feeling, senior defensive specialist Liz Condon reflected.
Leading the way for the Red was junior outside hitter Angela Barbera with 18 kills and 15 digs, while sophomore outside hitter Debbie Quibell continued her solid play with 16 kills and 19 digs. Senior outside hitter Jennifer Borncamp rounded out the double-doublers with 10 kills and 13 digs of her own.
Senior setter Jaimee Reynolds posted a match-high 49 assists, sophomore middle blocker Jaime Lugo contributed 10 kills, Condon notched 18 digs, and junior defensive specialist Mary Margaret Moore added 13 digs to the long list of donors who helped pulled out the win.
Of some concern were the unusually high 16 service errors committed by the Red.
“[The service errors] killed us. We were so behind on some of those games, and we’d finally get a break and go back there and serve the ball out. It was really nerve racking,” Jackson recalled.
The following day, Cornell traveled to the noisy Palestra to battle Pennsylvania. The Quakers (8-4, 2-1) had an eight-game win streak entering the match and were looking to tie Brown (9-7, 4-0) for the top spot in the league with a victory over the Red.
Cornell dashed Penn’s hopes in three straight games: 30-27, 30-27, 30-28.
Comparatively, the Red played a tighter game with an overall .200 hitting percentage, committing 20 errors (the team committed 37 errors against Princeton the night before), and improving to make only 9 miscues on serves. The Quakers, on the other hand, hit .122 for the match with 28 errors and 4 service errors.
“Penn played well, we just played better and we capitalized on the plays we needed to,” Condon explained.
Barbera again dominated with match-highs in kills (19), digs (17), and a team-high .302 hitting percentage, Quibell tallied 14 kills and 16 digs, and Borncamp had 7 kills and 13 digs. Sophomore middle blocker Ashley Stover added 10 kills to the solid team effort.
Jackson seemed more concerned going into the match with the Quakers. “Penn is a good team, and I was really worried about them because they have a lot of options and a lot of seniors who are playing on the court,” she said. “But [our team] was pretty motivated.”
Next weekend, the Red will play host to Dartmouth and Harvard in Newman Arena.
“We are in a good position right now. They are awesome wins,” Jackson ended.
“That gave us the confidence that we need to know that we could take the league this year, and that we could be number one,” Condon stated on the importance of these two wins.
The matches will be held on Friday and Saturday.
Archived article by Katherine Granish