It was the season that could have been for Cornell volleyball. The women spikers entered the 2001 campaign on the heels of a second place finish at the Ivy League championships the previous year. Led by the hard- hitting duo of senior Jennifer Borncamp and sophomore Debbie Quibell, the Red stormed out of the gates with a 5-1 league start. However, a rash of injuries and a slight dip in form quickly dropped the Red from pole position, and out of contention. This weekend, the women went towards restoring their status as one of the league’s elite teams, with wins at Harvard and Dartmouth.
On Friday, the Red (17-9, 9-5 Ivy) refused to cave in after falling two sets down to produce a stirring comeback win (26-30, 13-30, 30-19, 30-22, 15-13) against Harvard. Quibell produced a stellar all-round performance, tallying 18 kills and 33 digs in the five set thriller. Junior Angela Barbera chipped in with a double-double of 18 kills and 18 digs, while Borncamp’s 12 kills moved her past the 1000-kill mark for her career.
“That was awesome,” head coach Christie Jackson exclaimed. “They showed a lot of character to come back from two games down. I love that!”
Saturday’s season finale at Dartmouth appeared to be a heading for a complete reversal of the previous day’s proceedings. After taking a two-set lead, the Red had to stave off a furious challenge from the Big Green before prevailing 3-2 (30-26, 30-19, 23-30, 30-32, 15-11). Quibell, who was named the Ivy League’s joint Player of the Week after last weekend’s exploits, rounded off a hugely successful sophomore year with 13 kills and 22 digs. The victory also ensured that the seniors would end their Cornell careers on a high.
“That was one of the motivators,” Jackson admitted. “To try and go out in style.”
It was a bittersweet ending for the four seniors on the team. Outside hitters Borncamp and Jennifer McHarg, defensive specialist Liz Condon, and middle blocker/setter Jaimee Reynolds will all leave without having tasted an Ivy League title.
Borncamp put the finishing touches on a solid collegiate career, recording 20 kills and 26 digs in the two weekend match-ups. She fell just four digs short of becoming the first Cornellian ever to reach the 1000 kill-1000 digs mark. Borncamp and her classmates will be sorely missed by the team, both on and off the court.
“They [the seniors] weren’t my recruiting class but I feel like they’re mine because they’ve been here as long as I have,” said Jackson. “The team’s really close so it’s hard to see them go.”
As the curtain fell on the 2001 volleyball season, Jackson was left to reflect on a year in which injuries dealt the Red a cruel hand. With sophomore setter Rachel Rice and senior outside hitter Jennifer McHarg going down early on, Jackson was forced to throw some of her younger players into the fire.
“We were super inexperienced,” she said. “We essentially have a lot of freshmen playing.”
Even then, an Ivy League title was within reach until a fateful trip to Providence. The 3-0 loss to Brown prompted a four-match losing streak, which knocked the Red out of league contention.
“Something happens to us every year the weekend before Brown and Yale,” Jackson observed. “That little slump killed us.”
Despite the disappointment of not finishing atop the league, Jackson was grateful for the determination and selflessness demonstrated by the players.
“I know they’re disappointed in our season somewhat,” said Jackson. “But we did as much as we could with this team.”
At 9-5, Cornell finished third in the league, two games behind co-champions Penn and Brown. Nevertheless Jackson is looking forward to a promising campaign next year.
“If this season is any indication, we’re going to dominate the league,” Jackson pronounced.
Archived article by Soo Kim