The volleyball team is poised for a promising 2002 campaign as it looks to build upon its success over the past few years. Among its goals are an NCAA tournament berth and an Ivy title, an honor that has eluded it since 1993.
Last season, the Red got off to a blazing start only to slow down as the season progressed, ending up a respectable third in the Ivy League. This year, the squad returns many of its key players from last season and adds a strong recruiting class of six freshman, giving the Red a mixture of experience, youth, and depth that it has not had in recent memory.
“A lot of depth — a lot of players will get playing time, which has been unusual for Cornell,” said head coach Christie Jackson. “I think where Cornell is going to come out on top is that we only graduated two starters, and the rest of the team is back. We have great experience, and we have an awesome recruiting class. We are strong all around. I know a lot of other teams are not that way, they didn’t get great recruiting classes, or they have graduated some of their key players.”
Cornell will face stiff competition from other schools in the Ivy League, as there is no real weak team.
“Everyone is tough this year, Penn and Brown are tough, and Princeton. There is no way to know that you’re going to walk on the court and win against any of these teams,” Jackson said.
To prepare for tough league play, the Red will face one of its toughest schedules in recent history, competing against top teams in such conferences as the Big East, SEC, ACC, Mountain West and WAC. In addition, the squad will attend three tournaments including its own invitational on East Hill.
Among the leaders offensively for the Red are the outside hitting duo of senior Angela Barbera and junior Debbie Quibell. Barbera, who was a transfer last year from Boise State, aided the Red’s cause greatly, averaging 2.80 kills and 2.24 digs per game. For her efforts she was named a second-team All-Ivy selection. Quibell, who received first-team all-conference honors last year, led the squad in kills. She averaged 3.42 digs and .41 aces per game. They will be backed up by sophomore Kathryn Conrad and freshmen Rachel Adomat and Hayley Grieve, giving the Red much depth at this position.
In the middle, the Red will look to the junior pair of Jamie Lugo and Ashely Stover, both of whom made great strides last season to become two of the best middle blockers in the league. Both finished among the top-10 in the league in blocks. Lugo averaged 2.12 kills per game and 1.24 blocks. She had the highest hitting percentage on the team last year at .242. Stover, who has amassed 186 blocks in two seasons, will look to do even more. Freshmen Kristen Hughes and Heather Young should also see some time as middle blockers.
This season also features the return of junior setter Rachel Rice after missing most of last season due to several injuries. Rice led the league in assists her freshman year, earning her all-conference marks. Her return should bolster an already formidable offense. She will also be supported by freshman Whitney Fair, who has looked strong.
“Last year, we didn’t have our number one setter,” said Jackson. “This year we have her back, and she is getting into a rhythm. We also have someone to back her up who is developing very well.”
The back row will feature three players who all should get playing time for the Red.
“At the defensive specialist position, we’ve got three girls neck-and-neck with each other. They are on a day-to-day week-to-week basis. Whoever plays better that week will usually start at the end of that week,” Jackson said.
Senior team captain Mary Margaret Moore, who has averaged 150 digs each season during her career, leads this trio. She will also see time as a backup setter. Conrad and freshman Kelli Kramer will join her in competing for time in the backcourt.
With a solid lineup and depth at each position, the Red should have a successful season.
Archived article by Chris Callanan