Maybe the hype of challenging for an Ivy League title finally got to the players. Maybe it was just fatigue from another grueling roadtrip. Whatever the reason, the volleyball team that had moved into pole position in the Ivy League standings simply did not show up this weekend. Friday’s 3-0 loss at Brown (6-2 Ivy) coupled with another shutout defeat to Yale on Saturday dropped the Red (13-7, 5-3 Ivy) to third in the league with six matches remaining.
The Red had entered the weekend’s play on top of the Ivy League with a 5-1 record. However, the privilege of sitting atop the league often comes with a price — teams are more inclined to raise their play when facing the pace setters, as the Red found to its discomfort.
On Friday, Brown came out trumps, dispatching Cornell with stunning ease (30-23, 30-23, 30-16). Equally surprising was the 3-0 (30-23, 30-25, 30-25) loss the following afternoon to Yale, which gave the Elis their first Ivy win of the season.
Head coach Christie Jackson believes that an overall lack of concentration was to blame for the poor showings.
“We didn’t focus enough on playing a solid game,” Jackson admitted. “We were more worried about losing than playing together.”
While statistics aren’t always an accurate reflection of reality, the box score told the story this weekend. The Red had been hitting .215 on the year, but managed just .075 and .000 respectively against Brown and Yale. Cornell committed 12 service errors and seven reception errors against Brown while the Yale matchup produced 38 overall errors. Senior Jennifer Borncamp and sophomore Debbie Quibell, the leading hitters on the team, combined for just seven kills in the setback to Brown.
According to Jackson, the poor hitting can be attributed to the Red’s lack of experience at the setter spot.
“Not having a setter is getting to us,” she said. “No fault to [senior] Jaimee Reynolds, but we’re getting very predictable, and we’re getting blocked a lot.”
Reynolds has been the stand-in setter this year, with starter Rachel Rice going down due to injury before the season. Reynolds has done an admirable job in running the offense, but she is not a setter by trade. With the attack becoming more predictable, opponents are tallying more blocks and forcing more errors. This was all too evident in the weekend’s matchups, as Yale totalled an astonishing 19 blocks in its win over the Red.
The women may be down, but with six games left in the Ivy League season, they are most definitely not out of the running.
“It’s a rough time in our season but I definitely have confidence in our team to come back.” said Jackson. “We know we’re a better team.”
One of the reasons for Jackson’s optimism is the emergence of junior Angela Barbera at outside hitter. Barbera, who was named the Ivy League’s Player of the Week last week, gives the Red a third option in attack behind Borncamp and Quibell.
“She’s added a lot to our offense,” admitted Jackson. “That’s what Cornell has when we’re on: not just one hitter, but three hitters!”
It hasn’t been the best of weekends for Cornell volleyball, but redemption may be right around the corner. In what Jackson has billed as one of the crucial matchups remaining in league play, the Red will host new leaders Penn (6-1 Ivy) on Friday. It may be worth noting that the only blotch on Penn’s otherwise perfect Ivy League campaign occurred at the hands of Cornell earlier this year.
Archived article by Soo Kim