Having swept through its non-conference schedule with a phenomenal record of 9-1, the volleyball team is brimming with confidence heading into its Ivy League opener against Columbia this weekend. Yet, there is a certain maxim that every athlete is familiar with: as soon as the season starts, everything that came beforehand is forgotten.
“Preseason doesn’t really matter anymore,” head coach Christie Roes affirmed. “It doesn’t matter who we’ve played so far because now our only focus is on the Ivy League. We’re trying to get completely focused on winning the rest of our matches.”
Not that the Red’s preseason dominance should be overlooked. In fact, it is impossible to ignore the seemingly endless stream of broken records, extraordinary performances, and overall impressive play. But is the Red for real this year? Or will it fall victim to the Kansas State football syndrome, feasting on weaker teams throughout preseason in an effort to rack up wins rather than challenge themselves with Ivy-level competition?
“Our mentality is always that we need to win the games against the teams we should win against,” Roes stated. “We can’t let ourselves play down to lesser teams, but at the same time we need to battle it out against the top teams.”
All questions will be answered in the coming weeks as the Red embarks on it’s long-awaited march through its Ivy League schedule. The team opens up play at Levien Gymnasium in New York City tonight before returning to Newman Arena for a five game homestand against Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown and Yale. Having endured the toils of preseason practices since the summertime, the players feel ready and anxious to finally get that first league game under their belts.
“It’s always exciting to begin play in the Ivy League,” senior middle blocker Ashely Stover said. “The past three weeks of games have been preparing us for this; creating chemistry and tinkering with the lineup to find the best combinations. We just can’t make any errors.”
The Red’s hot start has enabled it to continue pursuing a number of unprecedented goals, both as a team and individually. The team’s eight match winning streak is the longest by a Cornell volleyball team since 1992, 12 matches away from the all-time consecutive wins mark (20 matches, set in 1983). Furthermore, senior outside hitter Debbie Quibell, fresh off her latest record-setting weekend in which she became the inaugural member of the 1,000 kills/1,000 digs club, is currently on track to break the all-time Cornell kills record (1,190) set by her former teammate Robin Moore ’01.
Freshman sensation Elizabeth Bishop has also become more poised and effective with each match, establishing herself as an integral part of the squad both offensively and defensively. Moreover, it seems as if Bishop is improving every time she steps onto the court, a scary notion considering that she already leads the team with 4.16 kills per game and a .375 hitting percentage. Bishop’s outstanding play has not gone unnoticed by Ivy League voters, who this week selected the outside hitter as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the third consecutive time.
“We’re not shocked at all at by [Bishop’s] play,” Roes said. “We knew she was a good player. She has been and will continue to be a great contributor to this team, and it’s the rest of the league who may be in for a shock when they actually see how good she is.”
As if the Red could not stand any more good news, the players have been energized by the return of senior setter Rachel Rice, who made her first appearance of the season Sept. 27 against Farleigh Dickinson, notching 34 assists and eight digs in an encouraging performance. Rice, the Cornell record holder in single-season assists (1,280) and assists per game (11.96), will complement sophomore Whitney Fair, as the two direct a potent Red offense.
Considering it previous successes, the Red anticipates little difficulty in dispatching Columbia (0-8) in the two scheduled contests of the weekend. Having just been embarrassed on their home floor last weekend (the Lions went 0-3 in their host tournament, the Columbia Classic), the traditionally weak Columbia squad is struggling to register its first win. Plagued by injuries and straining to find consistency under first-year coach Monica Holmes, the overmatched Lions may not have much of a bite against the streaking Red. However, the Red still refuses to assume that any match will be a definite win.
“There is no team that we can just walk over,” Quibell stated. “But if we play our game all the time, there is no team that we can’t beat either.”
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen