Following a heart-wrenching 30-28 defeat in the third game of the match against Yale, sophomore Whitney Fair and the rest of the volleyball team found themselves in a peculiar position. For the first time since their five-game loss to Seton Hall on Sept. 13, the Red was on the verge of losing an entire match. A 13-match winning streak, an undefeated record in Ivy League play, and continuing national recognition were all on the line. Yet, according to Fair, there was not much panic among the players heading into the potential streak-snapping fourth game.
“We all know very well that we need to win every game,” Fair said. “Simply put, we knew there was no way we were going to lose.”
And indeed there wasn’t. After falling behind two games to one in Saturday afternoon’s thriller against Yale (10-5, 2-3), the Red rallied behind superb efforts from a number of players en route to a 3-2 overall victory over the Bulldogs at Newman Arena. Each game was a battle in and of itself, with heroes such as senior Ashely Stover and sophomore Hayley Grieve emerging at key moments throughout the momentum-carried contest. When the dust finally settled, it was clear that the Red belonged atop of the Ivy League standings, having improved to 15-1 overall and 6-0 in Ivy play.
“There was never an element of doubt throughout the match,” senior outside hitter Debbie Quibell said. “Yale has been a tough win for us to take in past years, and it took a little while for us to settle into our rhythm. But as soon as we were able to re-focus, we beat them pretty convincingly in the fifth game.”
The Red rebounded from its third-game defeat with an exciting 30-20 win in game four, a textbook example of the intense focus emphasized by the players and coaches. Grieve and senior Jamie Lugo made themselves unforgettable to the Bulldog offense, registering 13 blocks between them in the match, including a number of outstanding stops in the fourth game. Stover, who finished the match with 12 kills, ended a dominating Red performance with a final, emphatic spike to end the game and send the match to a decisive game five.
In the fifth game, the team showed no signs that they had ever even had a point scored against them, overwhelming Yale on their way to a 15-8 victory. In a match controlled by the Red from the beginning, the Bulldogs simply had no answer to the Red’s offensive attack. Quibell, who played relatively few rallies in the match, added superb defensive play to the Red’s winning equation, as she finished with four digs on the evening. Freshman Elizabeth Bishop also sparkled, notching 22 kills and 21 digs on a number of finesse plays.
“It was important for our team to be able to shake off the mistakes and bounce back,” Bishop said, referring to the Red’s 2-1 deficit.
The Red’s victory over Yale was one of two key wins for the team, and the exciting ending was by no means the only headline from the weekend. Quibell, long in pursuit of the Cornell all-time career kills record, finally smashed the mark by posting 13 kills in the Red’s 3-1 (31-29, 27-30, 30-28, 30-22) conquest of Brown (1-11, 0-4) on Friday night. Quibell, who now holds the record with 1,191 kills, also added 14 digs and four blocks in the Red’s triumph over the Bears.
“When I was informed that I had broken the record, I was stunned,” said Quibell, who surpassed former teammate Robin Moore ’01 for first place on the career list. “It was something that I hadn’t focused on at all but was still an added plus. It was very exciting to accomplish.”
Bishop was again instrumental in the Red’s victory, recording 15 kills and 17 digs, while the defensive corps remained steadfast. Lugo and Fair both tallied nine blocks to add to the Red’s 20 total, while Fair also contributed 41 assists and 13 digs, one block away from a triple-double. Fair asserted, however, that winning is not all about posting incredible statistics, but rather reducing team mistakes.
“If we can control our errors on our side of the net, we can win,” she said. “Whichever team makes the fewest errors will always win, so we’ve been concentrating on eliminating ours.”
The Red will need to make as few mistakes as possible next weekend as it travels to Princeton and Pennsylvania, in what will assuredly be two of the toughest matches of the season.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen