When sophomore Rachel Adomat flew into the air to hammer down the Red’s match-deciding kill in the final, nerve-wrecking game against Penn Friday night, smiles of pure elation involuntarily took hold of the Red’s players and coaches. Just one evening later, however, the looks on the faces of the Red told a completely different story.
Following one of the most dramatic and exhilarating victories of the Red’s season, a valiant 3-2 win (31-29, 28-30, 27-30, 30-28, 15-13) over a Penn squad that had not been defeated in 20-straight Ivy League matches, the Red was handed a heartbreaking upset by the Princeton Tigers Saturday evening, losing 3-2 (30-26, 24-30, 12-30, 30-25, 16-14) in the seniors’ final game at Newman Arena. Both matches were decided in a critical fifth game, and both games were decided by exactly two points.
“Friday night was a really great win,” head coach Christie Roes said. “The whole team was crying afterwards — we were really excited. On Saturday, we were just shocked that we didn’t take care of business. Princeton came out hard and hungry, and we were flat at the beginning. But our team fought hard and they should be very proud of themselves. Even though we lost, it was still a lot of fun.”
Saturday’s loss sent the Red’s Ivy League championship hopes into a tailspin, yet mathematically the squad is not out of things yet. Cornell (19-4, 9-3 Ivy) currently sits in third place in the Ivy League, dropping a position after the loss to Princeton (15-6, 8-2). Penn (17-5, 10-1) remains in first place, with three Ivy contests remaining against Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton. The Red can still earn a share of the Ivy title providing that it wins its final two matches and the Quakers lose two out of their remaining three. Cornell would also depend on Princeton, whose remaining matches come against Columbia, Harvard, Dartmouth, and Penn, losing at least once.
But for Roes and the rest of the Red, the focus now can only be on taking care of what the team can take care of.
“It’s sad that we lost, but we just have to move forward now,” Roes stated. “We still have to give all we have to the program for this final week. We are still in this, we’re still a great team, and we’re not going to give up.”
The weekend indeed proved beyond doubt that this Red squad certainly is special. The team registered yet another record-breaking performance in the loss to Princeton, smashing the team block record of 20 (set versus Princeton in 1995) with 28.5 blocks against the Tigers. Senior middle blockers Jamie Lugo and Ashely Stover were a part of 14 of the team’s 28.5, with Stover breaking the individual block assists record (9, set by Becky Merchant ’90 in 1988) by tallying 14 block assists.
The Red dominated the stat sheet in both matches, out-hitting Penn and Princeton by a combined .229 team hitting percentage to .161 for the Quakers and Tigers. Freshman outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop provided the offensive backbone for the weekend, leading the Red in kills with 46 on the weekend. Sophomore setter Whitney Fair played in her typically solid manner, notching 60 assists against Penn and another 49 versus Princeton. Classmate Hayley Grieve also came through for injured senior Debbie Quibell (emergency appendectomy), terminating 16 attacks Friday night and adding another 19 kills Saturday.
Yet, despite the glowing statistics, the reality remains that the Red needs somewhat of a miracle to remain in the hunt for the Ivy League title. And the past weekend leaves Roes and company in a situation where many questions still remain, with relatively few answers.
“I feel like we made all of the right decisions against Princeton, but we just did not come out strong enough at the beginning,” Roes said. “We were making a lot of mental errors in the first game and we had to keep picking ourselves up. It seemed like we didn’t have enough time to come down after beating Penn the night before. The officiating was also pretty bad — only [at Newman Arena] do the officials make it seem like we don’t even have home court advantage.”
Officials at Newman Arena were booed loudly by a raucous crowd Saturday (which included former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno ’60) after a questionable touch call was made in the decisive fifth game. Similar dubious calls were made in the match against Penn, again drawing severe disfavor from an energetic audience comprised of family, friends, and a particularly rowdy contingent of track and field athletes.
The Red gets back on track for its final weekend of Ivy play next Friday at Yale, followed by potentially the last match of the season Saturday at Brown.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen