November 2, 2001

Volleyball Faces Must Win Situation at Weekend

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Do or die.

Now or never.

It’s that kind of weekend for the women’s volleyball team. After taking five straight Ivy contests to hold the top spot in the league, Cornell (13-7, 5-3 Ivy) succumbed to Brown (11-9, 6-2) and Yale (7-10, 1-7) last weekend to drop into a tie for third with Columbia (11-6, 5-3).

The Red will attempt to rebound from its two-game slide at home tonight and tomorrow with matches against Pennsylvania (12-4, 6-1) and Princeton (1-07, 4-3) respectively, knowing that anything less than a 2-0 effort severely jeopardizes its chances at the Ivy crown.

“[These matches are] the difference between an Ivy League championship and third or fourth place. [They are] very important,” head coach Christie Jackson acknowledged.

Cornell faces a steep climb out of last weekend’s disaster in which it did not win a single game. In its first match, the Red came up against an angry Bears squad that knew a win would yank its opponent from sole possession of first place. Brown needed only three games to shatter the confidence upon which Cornell had been riding on to that point. Although Cornell committed one less error than Brown with 20, the Bears tallied 11 more kills than the Red, which was good for a .178 hitting mark to Cornell’s .075. The nail in the coffin was Cornell’s 12 service errors to Brown’s three, and the fact that Brown registered 54 digs: 20 more than its opponent.

Shaken from being swept by the Bears, Cornell seemed to have the perfect opportunity to regain its footing against the Bulldogs, who had yet to notch an Ivy win up to that point. Leading the league in blocks per game (bpg) with 3.25, Yale utilized this advantage to tally 19 obstructions to the Red’s 10.

Undoubtedly, the deciding factor in the loss was Cornell’s 38 errors to Yale’s 20, resulting in the Red hitting .000 on the match, while the Bulldogs coasted with a .231 mark. Again, Cornell was unable to make a consistent attack and folded in three straight. The bright spot, however, was that the Red improved to commit only three service errors.

Although overcoming last weekend’s downturn will be difficult, Jackson is

“confident that the team can rebound.”

Tonight league leader Penn will march onto East Hill looking to maintain its top spot and drop the Red further in the standings. With Cornell and Brown fighting over first since the beginning of the season, the Quakers have quietly snuck into the race by winning its past four matches.

After losing its only conference match to the Red in three-straight games, Penn has since taken both Brown and Yale 3-1, and last weekend swept both Harvard and Dartmouth in three straight games. Usually known for its strong offense, this year’s squad has relied on solid defense resulting in keeping its opponents to a league low .142 hitting mark. Penn also holds the league leading 19.84 digs per game.

Junior outside hitter Stacey Carter was named to this week’s Ivy Honor Roll for her 12 kill effort against Harvard and 10 kill outing against Dartmouth. Additionally, senior Stephanie Horan is among the top 25 in the NCAA Division 1 leaders list averaging 3.98 digs per game. Last weekend, she tallied 18 digs against Dartmouth and 17 against Harvard to move her onto the national list. She is currently second in the league in digs per game and first in service aces per game with 0.52.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Tigers will roar into Ithaca. If Princeton was counting on repeating an Ivy title this year, its hopes were certainly compromised with a 0-3 start in conference action. Last weekend, nevertheless, the Tigers flashed a big notice to anyone who thought them down and out with three game sweeps of both Harvard (9-9, 2-6) and Dartmouth (7-11, 2-6).

Princeton is riding a four-match winning streak into the weekend, and would like nothing better than to avenge its nail-biting loss to the Red earlier this season. In its other two Ivy victories, Princeton handed both Brown and Yale losses in four rounds.

As the current rookie of the week, outside hitter Ashley Weber contributed to last weekends victories in a big way with 17 digs against Dartmouth and 16 kills, good for a .538 mark, against Harvard. Freshman middle blocker Alex Brown, named to the Ivy Honor Roll this week, was solid with 10 kills and six digs against the Crimson and 11 kills and 18 digs against the Green. Princeton should bring a balanced attack as it is currently second in the league with a .233 hitting percentage and only follows Cornell’s services aces per game 2.20-2.12 . The Tigers are also fielding three of the top four leaders in individual hitting percentage in junior middle blocker Abby Studer, senior setter Ana Yoerg, and sophomore outside hitter Kellie Cramm.

If Cornell can emerge from these two matches with victories, it will remain at most two games out of first if Brown sweeps Harvard and Dartmouth, or it could be tied at no. 1 if Penn losses its Saturday match to Columbia and Brown drops its two contests. Two losses, however, will make the Ivy title virtually out of reach.

This year, there is no clear leader in the league and the stage is set for the Red to bounce back from last weekend’s crushing losses and regain its grasp on the crown.

Tonight’s match with Penn will take place at 7 p.m. and tomorrow’s contest will be held at 4 p.m. Both battles will occur in Newman Arena.

When asked to encourage the fans to come to the matches, Jackson logically concluded that “right now we are the only fall sport really contending for an Ivy League title, so if that is not motivation enough, I don’t know what is.”

Archived article by Katherine Granish