Last weekend, Cornell volleyball dropped out of first place in the Ivy League standings. A week and two defeats later, it has dropped out of contention altogether. Friday’s defeat to current Ivy League leaders Penn (14-4, 8-1 Ivy), and Saturday’s setback against defending league champs Princeton (12-7, 6-3) shattered any hopes of bringing the Ivy League crown to Ithaca.
The Red (13-9, 5-5) entered the weekend unbeaten at home in league play, but Penn quickly showed why it is the team everyone is chasing at the moment. Led by 17 kills from sophomore Elizabeth Kwak-Hefferan, the Quakers edged the Red in three tight sets (30-27, 30-25, 30-28). Sophomore Debbie Quibell put in another strong performance for Cornell in the losing effort, tallying 16 kills and 11 digs.
“I thought Penn played really well,” said head coach Christie Jackson. “Penn has improved since we played them, and we haven’t.”
Saturday’s match-up against Princeton proved to be even more one-sided, as the Red suffered its fourth consecutive defeat on the year. Using a balanced attack, the Tigers blanked Cornell in straight games, 30-18, 30-22, 30-26. Sophomores Jamie Lugo and Ashley Stover had standout performances, combining for 21 kills, but it wasn’t enough to overcome poor overall hitting (.124) by the Red.
After racing to a 5-1 start in Ivy League play, the women have seen their momentum impeded by a combination of injuries and bad luck.
The loss of starting setter Rachel Rice to injury has finally caught up with the Red. Rice, who was an honorable mention all-league selection as a freshman, hasn’t played in a single match this season. In her absence, senior Jaimee Reynolds has shifted over from middle blocker to fill in admirably. However, that has also left the Red weaker and thinner at the middle blocker position.
“We really miss [Rachel Rice’s] leadership,” admitted coach Jackson. “It’s hard to get better when you don’t have your setter.”
Jackson’s frustrations are understandable given the wealth of attacking talent at her disposal. Senior Jennifer Borncamp, junior transfer Angela Barbera, and the hard-hitting Quibell form one of the most explosive outside hitting trios in the Ivy League. However, without the offensive general Rice to coordinate the attack, Jackson’s team has stuttered of late.
“We’re not the team we could be right now,” said Jackson. “There really isn’t anything more we can do until we get our setter back.”
Four matches remain on the Ivy League slate, and although the league title is now out of reach, don’t expect the women to relapse into complacency.
“Our team really just wants to play for our pride,” admitted Jackson. “They want to come back next week and show everyone that we’re an awesome team.”
The venue will once again be Newman Arena, as the Red looks to shake off its longest losing streak of the year against Yale on Friday.
Archived article by Soo Kim