Coming off of a weekend in which records were broken, new stars rose and old ones continued to shine, the volleyball team looks to continue its streak of dominance today and tomorrow at the Albany Challenge tournament in Albany, NY. The competition will almost assuredly be a step up from the opponents the Red faced at the Seton Hall Spikefest last weekend, with perennial powerhouses Albany and Long Island both looming on the upcoming schedule.
“It’ll be good competition,” sophomore defensive specialist Kelly Kramer said. “These teams have played some other strong teams and have gotten a lot of experience. The weekend will be a good challenge.”
The Red squares off against host Albany this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. in the University Gymnasium, followed immediately afterward by a game against Fairfield at 4:30 p.m. The Albany Great Danes (7-2) are riding on a six-game, two-tournament winning streak, but the Red players aren’t exactly slouching either. After a hard-fought victory against Iona and a bitter loss to Seton Hall on Sept. 13, the team shifted its focus to coming out hard at the very beginning of the first match, a philosophy that translated into two resounding wins against La Salle and Hartford on Sept 14.
With a 3-1 record and its confidence growing with every game and practice, the squad is primed and poised to meet the challenge that lies before it.
“Last weekend was a good opening weekend,” head coach Christie Roes stated. “The underclassmen gained a lot of valuable experience because we were trying so many different lineup combinations. Having the different players playing with each other in game situations will help us gel as a team and further execute our game plan.”
Roes hopes to lead the team to its first tournament championship since the Wagner Invitational in 2001, yet three major obstacles still remain in the way. Albany is known for its proficiency at jump-serves, a reputation created primarily by service-ace phenoms Eileen Rodriguez and Ashley DeNeal. The Great Danes average 2.36 service aces per game and are expected to challenge for the America East Conference title this season.
“We’ve been watching Albany on film and have worked on jump-serves all week in practice,” Roes said. “If we can get the ball up against them, we should be fine.”
Long Island (6-2) is coming off of its first winning season in 10 years and, after last weekend’s 3-0 blanking of Ivy League contender Princeton, should provide the Red with a valuable measure of talent prior to league play. Fairfield (2-8) does not pose quite the same threat as Albany or Long Island, yet the players maintain that this is no reason not to be completely prepared.
“We’ve been having extremely focused practices,” sophomore setter Whitney Fair said. “We prepare equally hard for every team we face. It’s nice to have some games under our belt to build confidence, and now we’re looking to get some good matches against some good competition.”
If the Red keeps up its current pace, the team should have no problems dispatching even the most fearsome foe. Senior Debbie Quibell is continuing her reckless assault on the Cornell record books, having posted double-doubles in all three of the games she played in over the weekend, bringing her career kill count to 1,123 (second all-time).
Freshman Elizabeth Bishop, in addition to recording staggering kill and dig numbers in her collegiate debut, was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week and looks to establish herself as one of the Red’s premier outside hitters. Seniors Ashely Stover and Jamie Lugo remain one of the best defensive pairings in the country, having led the Red to a third overall national ranking in blocks per game (ahead of No. 1 ranked Southern California). Kramer also ranks first in the Ivy League in digs per game with 4.59.
Yet, while noteworthy, the players insist that statistics mean little to them overall.
“We’re simply hoping to continue to gel as a team and get ready for Ivy League play,” Fair remarked. “We just need to keep confident and stay focused.”
The Red will return for the first home game of the season on Oct. 4 against Columbia at Newman Arena.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen