After a hard fought match on Friday, the women’s volleyball team competed the following day in a match that could have put it in a tie for first if it came away victorious. Unfortunately for the Red, its opponent used that opportunity to show the league exactly why it remains the sole possessor of the top rung.
In the first match of the weekend, the Red (11-6, 4-2 Ivy) battled a Dartmouth team (5-14, 1-5) who was then still looking for its first win.
“I really wasn’t worried about Dartmouth and I expected to go three games,” head coach Christie Jackson said. “I told the team it was important to go three in order to beat Harvard because we wanted to rest some of our starters, and we didn’t get to do that.”
The Big Green challenged Cornell from the start and jumped out to an early lead with a first game victory, 30-23, but the Red responded in the next stanza with a 30-22 win, which it again repeated in the third game to go up two games to one.
In the fourth game, Dartmouth rebounded to tie the match at two-all with a 30-28 win and hoped to use that success to triumphantly propel it into the final round.
That was not to be as Cornell used .500 hitting to take the match with a fifth game score of 15-9.
“They had nothing to lose. Being second, we had everything to lose. We knew they were going to come out fighting,” freshman middle blocker Heather Young commented. “They knew how it feels to lose, so they gave it everything they’ve had to try to win.”
As a team, Cornell outhit and outblocked the Big Green .243-.194 and 16-6, respectively. The win came thanks to contributions from many individuals. The Red had four players in double-digits for kills and three in double-digits for digs. Junior outside hitter Debbie Quibell had 14 kills and 20 digs with three service aces while senior outside hitter Angela Barbera had 14 kills and 13 digs on a match high .478 hitting percentage.
Junior middle blocker Jamie Lugo had 15 kills on .345 hitting with nine blocks and class and position mate Ashely Stover had 16 kills on .389 hitting. Senior defensive specialist Mary Margaret Moore had a match high 20 digs and junior setter Rachel Rice had 55 assists and eight digs.
“It is that time of the year when our bodies are broken down and we really needed to rest some people,” Jackson lamented. “As soon as you go five with a team like Dartmouth, everyone thinks you are beatable. Now people have hopes to beat us and they think it is doable. Cornell is not untouchable anymore.”
On Saturday, Cornell faced a different breed in Harvard (10-7, 6-0), who used the bare minimum to continue its dominance in the league.
“Coming in to the match, we had a whole game plan,” Young explained. But we allowed their hitters to get going. We let too many of them get their kills. We just didn’t shut down people we needed to shut down.”
In the first game, the Red fought along side the Crimson but was unable to pull ahead of its opponent’s attack. Harvard took the opening round 30-27 and outhit Cornell .204-.148.
The final two games of the match saw a steady decline in Cornell’s success on the court with an opposite increase in Harvard’s as the Red succumbed to the Crimson’s onslaught.
In the second contest, Harvard won 30-25 with a .217 hitting percentage while Cornell dropped to .111. The third and final game went to the Crimson by a score of 30-19, which again outhit the Red .367-.108.
“We did not take the opportunities that they gave us and people weren’t doing their individual jobs. The team just freaked out because Harvard was playing well and has good hitters and were getting some balls through our defense,” Jackson sighed. “Each person just didn’t take care of herself. And that stems from Friday night. If we had played really well Friday night, we would have had more energy and confidence. Harvard did come out strong, and we did too, but as soon as things didn’t go our way, we just folded.”
“We know now that when we see something we need to change, we need to change it right away. In the Harvard match, we saw stuff and didn’t change it immediately,” Young recalled. “We would wait for the other team to score four or five points before we would change.”
Despite the loss, Cornell still outblocked Harvard 7-6 and had solid performances from numerous players.
Barbera and Quibell again led the team on the offensive front. The senior recorded 12 kills and 15 digs, while the junior tallied 14 kills and 15 digs. Stover also had a good showing with 11 kills on .412 hitting, while Moore had 10 digs. Rice, who had 18 assists, split time at setter with freshman Whitney Fair, who had 20 of her own. Young led the blocking effort with a game-high four.
“I don’t think they are better than us, but they are good,” Jackson said of Harvard.
Cornell is now third in the league behind the Crimson and second-place Penn (12-5, 4-1).
“We have to win every match, there is no choice anymore,” Young stated. “We know we have to give it everything we’ve got. We have to give that extra 10 percent. It’s do or die from now on.”
The Red will return to Newman Arena this upcoming weekend with matches against fourth-place Brown and sixth-place Yale.
Jackson reflected on what the team has taken away from the weekend.
“Now we need someone else to lose to win the league and it’s out of our control now. Our team has learned its lesson and hopefully individuals have learned that if they take care of themselves, the team will come together, and not the other way around,” she ended. “The season isn’t over because it’s very early — we haven’t even played half of our Ivy schedule yet. Now we just have to play with a little more pressure on us.”
Archived article by Katherine Granish