September 12, 2003

Taking Aim at Hardware

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One of the most cherished traditions of the senior class at any university is the proud display of the class ring, a representation of years of hard work and toil for one’s alma mater. Yet, there will be no class rings ordered by the four seniors of the women’s volleyball team this year; they have another kind of hardware in mind.

“We want the Ivy League ring,” senior middle blocker Jamie Lugo stated. “That’s been our goal from the beginning, and that’s the only ring we want on our fingers this year.”

Cockiness? Overconfidence? Hardly. Coming off of three consecutive winning seasons, the Red is unquestionably one of the most talented and feared teams in the Ivy League. Back in the lineup are five of last season’s starters, including All-Ivy selections Debbie Quibell, Rachel Rice, and Ashley Stover. The Red also possess what head coach Christie Roes calls “the deepest and most talented back-up players I have coached here at Cornell,” an oft-overlooked feature that makes this year’s team all the more formidable.

“This year’s team is simply the strongest in the Ivy League in terms of talent and experience,” Roes said. “Overall, we are more well-rounded and mature, in addition to being better able to deal with adversity.”

Adversity has certainly been a stalwart in the Red volleyball program in recent years. In the last two seasons the women’s team has been hit with a seemingly constant string of injuries. Both Lugo and Rice have been among the starters sidelined, and Roes is well aware of the fact that staying healthy will be a major factor in achieving success.

“Injuries have plagued this team in the past,” Roes affirmed. “Yet, this year there is far more optimism because not only is everyone healthy right now, but we have such talent and depth at every position that we can win games and build confidence with any player on the court. In previous years, we have not had that luxury.”

Preseason workouts have been a key component to the Red’s self-assurance, as every single player arrived at the team’s Nike summer camp in shape and motivated to work hard. Rice said that the training sessions went “very, very well,” and that most of the players either met or surpassed their training goals. Moreover, the preseason workouts saw the beginnings of the volleyball squad truly coming together as a team.

“Our preseason testing and workouts have been the best it’s ever been for us,” sophomore outside hitter Hayley Grieve said. “There is so much competitiveness in the intrasquad matches that it’s easy to tell how much depth we have this year. We are all really anxious to play.”

The Red’s first test of the season comes in the form of the Seton Hall Spikefest, set to take place this weekend in South Orange, N.J. Iona, Seton Hall, La Salle, and Hartford are all on Roes and company’s radar screens, and the tournament should provide an excellent jumping-off point for the Red’s season.

Recently, the women’s volleyball team has dominated in season openers (having defeated every opponent in opening contests for the last eight years), and it looks to continue that tomorrow against Iona. And with the confident philosophy Roes has instilled in the group over the past four years, that doesn’t look like it’s going to be much of a problem.

“The thinking this year is simply to let the girls’ talent take over,” Roes stated. “As a team, we think and believe that we can win, and with each victory, that belief will only become stronger and stronger.”

Rice and the rest of the team echo similar sentiments, as the squad is poised this season to make an NCAA appearance for only the second time in Cornell women’s volleyball history.

“The championship is definitely possible this year,” Rice affirmed. “We’ve had serious discussions about how we are going to get there. Everyone has been hungry for it, and there is just a good feeling going all around.”

Archived article by Kyle Sheahen