Since its installation, the hardwood at Bartels has borne the blood, sweat, and tears of countless athletes. The past three years, however, have been special. During that time, the court has quietly been bearing witness to the greatest love affair in Cornell’s history — that between an athlete and her sport — that of senior Debbie Quibell, and the volleyball team she has quietly helped transform into one of the Ivies’ most successful programs.
As an outside hitter, Quibell has been at the top of the league. Last year, she ranked third in kills and fourth in digs en route to her second All-Ivy first-team selection.
But it’s not the awards that set Quibell apart, it’s her attitude toward life.
During the spring of her sophomore year, Quibell was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. A chronic condition that includes numbness in the arms and pain in the lower back, degenerative discs usually appear later in life. In Quibell’s case, years of rigorous competitive play had created, then aggitated the condition. For a period of time, she was even forced to go without volleyball.
But if the pain of her injury was anything, the pain of being away from the game she loved was even more. Slowly, Quibell began an intense period of rehabilitation with one goal in mind: playing collegiate volleyball.
“If I have to be held out for a practice I get frustrated,” she said. “Eventually, I just kind of made the decision that I was going to do whatever it took to get on the court. The way I felt was, I only have a window of four years to play collegiate volleyball.”
With two years remaining in that window, Quibell came back with the heart and determination of a champion. A testament to her solid and consistent style of play, she finished her junior season as the fastest Cornell athlete to reach 1,000 career kills. Despite earning this honor, Quibell — an Atlanta native — considers her crowning junior moment a trip home.
“My coach promised me that during the four years I played here, that we would play one match in my hometown,” Quibell said. “It was an amazing opportunity that my coach gave me.”
It was also an opportunity that Quibell ran away with. Playing infront of a friendly hometown crowd, she posted gaudy tournament numbers that included 44 kills and 45 digs over three days. For her efforts, she was named to the All-Tournament team, which included players from Georgia Tech and Alabama.
As a senior, Quibell has the opportunity to reset Cornell’s career records for kills and digs.
“I’d love to walk away from Cornell having left my mark,” she said, “but it would be becuase of the players I’ve played with. They are a huge reason behind why I’m even in contention for the records.”
Quibell’s teammates, however, will note that credit should be given where credit is due.
“She is a dynamic player to play with,” said senior setter Rachel Rice. “She is incredibly focused. Everyone on the team can always tell how focused she is.”
Head coach Christie Roes echoed her players’ sentiments and spoke of Quibell’s impact.
“She began freshman year as a strong, raw talent, but has developed into a smarter and more finessed player,” Roes said. “If other teams do not know about her or study her, they will be beaten by her.”
When Quibell isn’t dismantling teams on the court, she’s helping to build the futures of underprivileged children. After an early graduation in December, she plans to spend a year in South Africa working with HIV-positive children. As someone who has travelled to South Africa several times, Quibell is already familiar with the devastation the disease causes.
“I think the thing that drew me back was the desperation of the situation in Africa right now,” she said. “If I can be a relief [to the children], I’ll do it.”
Archived article by Matthew Janiga