There are two characteristics of a championship squad universal to every sport: the ability to improve with each and every competition, and the knack for winning the big game when it really counts. With a sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth on the road now behind it, it’s clear that the volleyball team possesses both of these attributes. Now the only thing left is that championship.
“This weekend was huge,” senior outside hitter Debbie Quibell said. “It was almost a turning point for the team. This team plays incredibly under pressure.”
Halloween weekend brought terror only for the Red’s opponents, as the squad stole two away matches from Harvard (6-13, 5-4 Ivy) and Dartmouth (8-13, 2-8), preserving the team’s hopes for an Ivy championship and setting up a monumentally important series next weekend against Princeton and Penn. The Red’s defense suffocated both the Crimson and the Green to a combined .119 hitting percentage, propelling the Red to a 18-3 overall record (8-2 Ivy) and a second-place standing in the Ivy League.
“We went into the matches knowing both teams would put up a fight,” freshman middle blocker Joanna Weiss said. “But we had regrouped and went in feeling more confident about our game, and the weekend was huge for getting more of that confidence back.”
The Crimson was overpowered early and often Friday evening, unable to mount any kind of convincing attack, as the Red sprinted to a 30-16, 30-28, 30-24 victory. Sophomore Heather Young (eight blocks) and senior Jamie Lugo (four blocks) led a superb defensive unit that out-blocked Harvard, 13-2, on the match. Quibell and sophomore libero Kelly Kramer rounded out the unflinching Red defense, adding 13 digs apiece in a match where the Crimson was limited to a .135 team hitting percentage.
“We definitely focused on playing scrappy defense,” said Quibell, who spent much of the weekend playing the back row. “We made smart plays and got our hands on a lot of balls we may not normally have gotten.”
Not to say that the Red’s offense didn’t shine as well, as the team combined for 48 kills and seven service aces. Senior Ashely Stover had one of her finest performances of the season, notching 14 kills without an error and hitting .700 on the match. Freshman outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop made her presence known to the Harvard defense by registering 14 kills, and also chipped in on defense with six digs. Setter Whitney Fair commanded the offense with precision, adding 40 assists and a service ace in the win.
“The defense was key this weekend,” Bishop said. “I know I didn’t have fun, and a lot of other people didn’t have fun, losing to Penn and Princeton. But this weekend we all definitely had a good time.”
Saturday evening provided more of the same results: the Red came out fast and Dartmouth was unable to respond. The stat sheet also looked uncannily similar, with Stover and Bishop leading the way again in the kills department (13 and 11, respectively) and Kramer and Quibell backstopping the defense (14 digs apiece). Most astounding, however, was the Red defense holding the Green to a laughable .102 team hitting percentage, the lowest an opponent has registered against the Red this season. The blocking was again lopsided in the Red’s favor, 12 team blocks to the Green’s paltry 2.5.
However, the success for the Red did not lie simply in the stat sheet, but also in the immeasurable category of team confidence, especially going into the most important weekend of the season.
“Our team chemistry right now is as good as it gets,” Quibell stated. “We’re not intimidated by Penn or Princeton because we know that we are still the better team. We’re feeling pretty good about the upcoming weekend.”
With the two victories, the Red stands alone in second place in the Ivy League, ahead of Princeton but still behind undefeated Penn (9-0). The Quakers will arrive in Ithaca Friday night to face off against the Red at Newman Arena at 7 p.m., with the Red taking on the Tigers the next day at 4 p.m.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen