The volleyball team traveled south to Atlanta this weekend for the Georgia Tech Invitational. The squad expected and experienced a tougher level of competition, as two of its opponents in the invite had appeared in the NCAA tournament last year, and the other posted a 20-plus win season.
On Friday, the Red (4-3, 0-0 Ivy) faced Alabama in a frustrating match. Cornell paced the Crimson Tide throughout the first game, outhitting its opponent .300-.163, but came away on the short end of a 34-32 score. The second game had a similar tune, as the Red again outhit Alabama, .286-.270, but could not close out the game and lost 30-28.
Alabama finessed its way through the third game, as it hit .455 to Cornell’s .103 and took the match with a 30-20 score.
“On the one hand, we were very upset that it was totally do able and we didn’t do it,” head coach Christie Jackson said of winning the match. “On the other hand, it was a really good match. We were really proud of [our play] because that team is really good.”
“It was bittersweet because we felt like we should have finished it off,” she added.
Junior opposite hitter Jennifer Bibber, who is averaging more than 15 kills per game this season, propelled the Tide with 19 kills and five digs in the contest.
“It just came down to a few simple plays at the end of the game,” junior setter Rachel Rice explained. “We were with them the whole time, just not at the end. But it was a big step up for us. Our level of play improved from [the Robert Morris Invitational last weekend] to that match.”
“We were proud of the way we played, but we definitely didn’t play to our full potential because of a lack of experience and little mistakes,” junior outside hitter Debbie Quibell recalled. “The whole match was tight. We were point for point with them. We just didn’t close it out.”
After that loss, Cornell headed back on the court to face Florida International. In dramatic fashion, the Red rebounded to take the match in three straight games, 30-22, 31-29, and 30-27.
The win came despite a .148 hitting percentage on the match for Cornell, which bested the Golden Panther’s .048 average. The Red also prevented any player on the opposing squad from reaching double digits in any offensive category.
“There were a lot of people who were disappointed we didn’t beat Alabama. We were definitely on a mission to make up for that,” Jackson said. “We definitely took control of the match [against Florida]. We gave them nothing.”
“We just focused on what we did well in the Alabama match and did the little things better,” Rice recollected. “And followed what our coaches told us to a tee.”
“Nothing they did affected us and we maintained the level of play that we told ourselves to,” Quibell added. “If we made a mistake, we would move on and play harder. We were focused the whole time and there was no doubt from the beginning that we were the stronger team in that match.”
The following day, Cornell faced host Georgia Tech. Seeking more challenging matches, the Red certainly got what it bargained for against the Yellow Jackets. Riding a five-match winning streak, Tech wasted no time coming out of the gate in the first game and taking it 30-16 with a .310 hitting mark to the Red’s .079.
In game two, Cornell cooled down the Jackets for the first third of the match but succumbed to an 8-0 Tech run and a 30-14 final score.
Game three of the match also went to the host squad after a 30-18 defeat of the Red, but Cornell continued to make adjustments and hit .318 in the final frame to Tech’s .480.
“We played well, and it was another step up from the other teams this weekend,” Rice said. “It was a good wake up call because it showed us that we have to come in every day very focused.”
“They are very, very well rounded and very good. Everyone thought it was just an incredible match,” Jackson complimented. “The scores don’t show how well we played them.”
“The tech game was a bit of a disappointment for all of us,” Quibell admitted. “They are top 25 team. but we still felt we could have played them better.”
Cornell also experienced a crowd unlike any other it had seen before.
“There were 1,300 people there, and we had never played in front of a crowd like that,” Jackson said. “There was so much school spirit there that we don’t have at Cornell, and that was great to see.”
The Yellow Jackets were undefeated over the two days and won the tournament. Its success this weekend garnered it a No. 25 ranking in the AVCA national poll.
For the Red over the entire weekend, Quibell, the team’s representative on the all-tournament team, had 25 kills and 28 digs. Senior outside hitter Angela Barbera tallied 30 kills and 20 digs while Rice had 68 assists and five service aces.
Going into the weekend, the Red knew its blocking game would be put to the test and it passed with flying colors. Cornell out blocked its opponents in all three matches 12-7, 10-8, and 7-4 against Alabama, Florida International, and Georgia Tech, respectively.
“If we win one, it is going to be an awesome weekend, and we almost pulled out two,” Jackson ended. “We played at a level we haven’t ever played before. The challenge is to now play at a level we haven’t played before against the Ivy League teams.”
Archived article by Katherine Granish