They say that the greatest athletes shine when it matters most. The most formidable players rise to every challenge, overcoming hardship with fierce competitive spirit. It is with these characteristics that championship squads are born.
And it is with these characteristics that the volleyball team has exploded into the spotlight, decimating both Dartmouth and Harvard over the weekend to claim sole possession of first place in the Ivy League. Now, with a league record of 4-0 and a winning streak that has been extended to 12 games, the talented women are making a convincing statement to be regarded as one of the premier teams in the nation.
“This weekend was huge for us,” senior outside hitter Debbie Quibell said. “It was the most challenging competition we have been up against so far, and to be able to beat two good teams gave us a lot of added confidence.”
Coming off of a two-match sweep of Columbia on Oct. 3-4, the Red (13-1) combined an offensive onslaught with impeccable defense as it shut down Dartmouth (7-8) three games to zero (30-24, 30-26, 30-22) on Friday evening. A dominant blocking performance by the Red’s front line proved to be the Green’s undoing, as the defense anchored by senior Jamie Lugo and sophomore Rachel Adomat notched 15 team blocks. Lugo led the way with a match-high eight blocks, supplemented by Adomat’s seven and senior Ashely Stover’s four. The Red continued its streak of out-blocking opponents, having reigned over both the Green and the Crimson this past weekend.
“Our block was right on against Dartmouth,” head coach Christie Roes stated. “We knew exactly what they were going to do, and the blocking was just clutch.”
The defensive play was complemented again by a balanced offensive attack, as five different players on the team registered at least six kills. Quibell, Stover, and freshman outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop all recorded nine kills in the winning effort, statistics made possible by sophomore setter Whitney Fair’s flawlessly controlled game (31 assists).
“Whitney did a great job of moving the ball around,” Roes confirmed. “She set up a lot of different people, making it so that we got a lot of kills from different parts of the court.”
The Red carried this momentum into Saturday’s match against Harvard (4-10), shredding the Crimson three games to one (30-24, 26-30, 30-21, 30-28). Having lost both match-ups last season, the squad was eager to erase the bitter memories and put a damper on Harvard junior Kaego Ogbechie’s quest to defend her title as Ivy League Player of the Year. The Red did so with immense help from its underclassmen, as Bishop and sophomore Hayley Grieve combined for 41 kills, and Fair highlighted a superb weekend with a career-high 59 assists.
“Our team was on a mission to beat [Harvard],” Roes said. “It was a very exciting match, and the whole team executed our gameplan really well. Everybody did their job and stepped it up.”
Adomat continued to impress with 10 kills and a match-high 4 service aces, while Grieve’s outstanding play (17 kills, 13 digs, and 3 blocks) only reaffirmed the Red’s status as a talented team of both youth and experience. But the Red was given a marginal scare when the team lost the second game of the match, the first single game loss in 18 consecutive contests. Yet, according to Quibell, that loss served only to further motivate the team to win.
“Dropping one game to Harvard simply made us want to beat them more, to beat them more convincingly.” Quibell said.
With its latest win, the Red boasts not only the best record in the Ivy League, but also dominance in a number of league categories. The spikers currently lead the Ancient Eight in team hitting percentage (.279), opponent hitting percentage (.148) and blocks per game (3.14), marks good enough to place the squad in the top 15 nationally in both team hitting percentage and blocks per game.
With these thoughts in mind, it now seems as if the volleyball team’s confident championship assurance during the preseason was not quite as bold as it seemed. Does this mean the Red is looking towards a little more than just the Ivy Championship? Could the likes of national powerhouses Southern California and Stanford be too far away?
“We’re just thinking about Brown,” Roes stated, referring to the Red’s match this weekend. “We have 11 matches left against some great competition, so we’re just focusing on beating whoever is coming up next.”
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen