H. L. Mencken, a Depression-era political commentator, is famed for saying, “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” This maxim may be particularly appropriate this weekend, as the volleyball team heads into its final regular season matches of the year, still clinging to the prospect of earning a share of the Ivy League championship.
As the team travels to New Haven, Conn. tonight and Providence, R.I. tomorrow for away matches against Yale and Brown, respectively, the Red must show a little of Mencken’s faith as the team watches the out-of-town scoreboards. The Red (19-4, 9-3 Ivy) is dependent on both Penn (17-6, 10-1) and Princeton (15-6, 8-2) dropping at least one match this weekend, and subsequently Princeton defeating Penn in a head to head matchup in Philadelphia next Wednesday evening. Both Princeton and Penn will be playing at home against Harvard and Dartmouth.
Yet, while it’s a guarantee the Red will be hotly anticipating updates from Philadelphia and Princeton, there are still two tough matches that it need to take care of. Head coach Christie Roes is quick to emphasize the importance of Cornell’s success this weekend, rather than trying to predict what fate will have in store come Sunday morning.
“We really just need to focus on our matches,” Roes said. “We feel good as a team, and we know we have to win both matches in order to go out with the highest standing possible. In terms of where we’ll end up come next week, we simply don’t know at this point. Whatever happens elsewhere is out of our control.”
The Red will roll into the John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven tonight to face a Bulldog squad coming off a sweep weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth. Yale (14-8, 6-5) has been solid overall yet sporadic in league play, having defeated Princeton but coming out on the losing end of a match against Harvard. The Bulldogs employ a strong one-two punch in the form of outside hitter Jana Freeman and setter Jacqueline Becker, both of whom rank among league leaders in kills and assists, respectively.
The Red won a close match when Yale came into Ithaca on Oct. 18, a come from behind victory that saw the Red down two games to one only to rally back and defeat the Bulldogs in five. Freshman Elizabeth Bishop, who was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for a record sixth time this season, led the Red’s attack against Yale in the last meeting (22 kills) while sophomore Kelly Kramer provided a reliable defensive game (34 digs).
“We need to focus on taking out Yale quicker than we did last time,” Roes stated. “We know they will come out strong and will be looking for a big win. Our blocking schemes need to be on and our back row will need to be solid.”
The Red is still dealing with the crushing blow of losing senior outside hitter Debbie Quibell for the season due to an emergency appendectomy procedure early last week. Quibell, a three-time All-Ivy selection and Cornell’s all-time leader in kills (1,212), was sorely missed in last weekend’s series against Penn and Princeton. Roes is resolute that the team will continue to persevere, yet lamented the task of expecting her players to play the “best match of their lives” night in and night out.
“Even without one of our best players this weekend, we still played great,” Roes said. “All of our players have had playing experience this season, and new players will keep seeing more and more time. But it’s difficult if we have a player down in a weekend against teams like Penn and Princeton because our team will not be as fresh for the second match. Other teams, by contrast, put all of their energy into us every time. But our team has held up really well; we’re still going strong.”
Saturday will bring potentially the last match of the year for the Red, and the last match in the careers of the squad’s four seniors. The Red dispatched a weak Bears team in Ithaca on Oct. 17, 3-1, in the match that saw Quibell break the Cornell career record for kills. The Red could be on pace for another record setting day at Brown, as senior Ashely Stover needs only seven blocks to set the career record (currently 199, by Becky Merchant ’90) and Kramer is 41 digs away from the single season record (403, by Tere Duran ’89). One thing the Red will be assured of, however, is its fourth straight winning season under Roes.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen