October 19, 2001

Volleyball Rises to Top of Ivy League

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For struggling sports teams, home contests are an excellent way to end slides. Playing in front of a supportive crowd can help any squad rebound from tough losses.

The Cornell women’s volleyball team (11-5, 3-1 Ivy) needs no such therapy. After beginning the Ivy League season with a loss to Columbia, the Red has won three straight, including two battles against powerhouses Princeton and Penn, and 10 of its last 12 matches. Second in the league to Brown (9-7, 4-0), Cornell holds the best overall record of the eight teams in the conference.

This weekend, the Red will face Dartmouth and Harvard in essentially must-win situations, as is every match from now on. With the abolishment of the Ivy tournament to cap the end of the season, this year the Champion will now be determined by conference record, heightening the importance of each match.

“I think they will both be trouble,” head coach Christie Jackson commented about this weekend’s opponents. “I think Harvard is a better team, but at this point, everybody will give us trouble because we do not play consistently. That is our biggest challenge.”

Junior defensive specialist/setter Mary Margaret Moore felt that the teams “are both going to be equally challenging.”

Tonight, the Big Green (7-7, 2-2) will march into Newman Arena at 7 p.m.

Coming off a weekend in which it dropped three straight games to Brown, but rebounded with a 3-1 victory over Yale (6-7, 0-4), Dartmouth is looking to stay within striking distance of first place.

The Big Green is lead by senior outside hitter Ashley Dean, who is just 66 digs away from becoming the holder of the school’s all-time record in that category. Tops on the team with a 3.61 kills per game (kpg) average and a 4.39 digs per game (dpg) average, Dean had 17 kills and 17 digs in the win over the Bulldogs last Saturday. The outside hitter was a key player in a five-game loss to Harvard two weekends ago in which she had match-highs in kills and digs with 25 and 38, respectively. Dean was also named first team All-Ivy last season.

Senior middle blocker Jen Madsen, who was second on the team with a 2.89 kpg average, is out for at least two weeks with a broken finger sustained last week in practice.

Against Yale, the Big Green hit .193 and limited the Bulldogs to a .087 hitting mark in the four-game 26-30, 30-24, 30-21, 30-27 victory. Both teams were sloppy in the match, with Dartmouth committing 37 errors and Yale making 33.

The following afternoon, the Red will face Harvard at 4 p.m. Last weekend, the Crimson (9-5, 2-2) played two five-game matches against Yale and Brown, coming out ahead of the Bulldogs, but succumbing to the current league leader.

In a close match against Yale, Harvard took the first two games by scores of 30-28 and 35-33, but dropped the next two 29-31 and 27-30. A 15-13 score in the fifth game gave the Crimson the victory. Harvard hit .207 in the match with 37 errors and 111 digs.

In its match with Brown, the Crimson knew it had its work cut out for it.

Although it certainly did try, the Crimson was ultimately outplayed by the Bears, eventually folding in the fifth game, despite battling back from a 2-1 game deficit. Harvard dropped the first game 27-30, followed by scores of 30-24, 12-30, 30-28, and 11-15. The Crimson hit .102 in the match with 32 errors, including a mediocre third game in which it had 3 kills and 13 errors for a -.286 while Brown hit .163 with 39 mistakes.

As the only senior on the squad, outside hitter Erin Denniston is a six-foot terror. Leading the league with a 4.00 kpg average in 2000, Denniston was named second team All-Ivy. This year the senior is second on the team with a 3.75 kpg mark, but she was named to the Ivy honor roll this week after notching 20 kills and 18 digs against Yale and 16 kills and 10 digs against Brown.

Freshman outside hitter Kaego Ogbechie is the team leader in kpg, dpg, and hitting percentage averaging 3.80, 3.16 and .293, respectively. The six-foot rookie has been named Ivy Rookie of the Week for three times, including the last two consecutive weeks. Against Yale she tallied 25 kills, 14 digs, and 10 blocks, while against Brown she had 13 kills, 15 digs, and four blocks.

“They have a lot of offensive weapons,” Jackson acknowledged.

When asked about the team’s aims, junior outside hitter Angela Barbera advised a short-term approach to the season. “It is important for us to, instead of looking at our long-term goal of the Ivy League Championship, take one game at a time,” she said.

“We just have to convert points. You really just have to be ready for everything. We need to come out and win,” Moore commented on the same subject.

A transfer from Boise State, Barbera has made her presence known. Last weekend, she turned in her best performance of the season with 18 kills and 15 digs against Princeton, and 19 kills and 17 digs against Penn. Her effort earned her a spot on the Ivy honor roll this week.

Commenting on the transition to Cornell this year, Barbera said, “I feel like I’m adjusting fairly well. I think its great because, different from my last conference, every Ivy game is a huge rivalry. It is really easy to feed off everyone else’s excitement as far as the feelings they have towards the other Ivy League teams.”

In addition to the two matches, the team is holding an All-Sport competition tonight in which several Cornell varsity teams will compete against each other in a two contests between games two and three. So far, the wrestling, baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and heavyweight crew teams will take part in the challenges. When asked what the athletes will be doing in the contests, Jackson replied that it is “top secret,” but divulged that the participants will be “doing some funny, funny stuff.”

The main reason the volleyball team decided to hold this event, according to Jackson, was to encourage other varsity teams to support one another.

“It’s a way to get other athletes supporting athletes. I think it will be fun, and we are going to try to make it into an annual event if it goes well,” she said.

The women will face off against Dartmouth tonight at 7 p.m. and will meet Harvard tomorrow at 4 p.m. Both matches will be held in Newman Arena.

“We are extremely excited for our home match and are hoping to see a lot of our fans out there,” Barbera ended.

Archived article by Katherine Granish