So close, yet still so far away.
The volleyball team’s four seniors will be without class rings of any sort this year as the Red’s veterans failed to lead the squad to its first Ivy League championship since 1993. Despite sweep victories of both Yale and Brown over the weekend, the Red didn’t get the help it needed elsewhere in the league as Penn also won matches against Dartmouth and Harvard, clinching at least a share of the league title with Princeton.
Although the Red has plenty to be cheerful about statistically and in the record books — the team’s final 21-4 record was the most wins by a Cornell squad since 1989 — the ending itself was all too bittersweet.
“It was a very strange feeling ending the last night of the season on the road,” head coach Christie Roes said. “The seniors and I were asking each other, ‘What do we do now?’ But the season overall was great. I’m so proud of the girls and all of the hard work they put in.”
The Red’s final two victories were typical of a squad that found itself dominating any number of matches throughout the year, a consistent balance of offense and defense brought together by a superior team attitude. On Friday night, the Red simply pounded a Bulldog defensive unit that looked like only a shadow of the team that had battled Cornell through five tough games at the teams’ first meeting.
Freshman outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop, one of many success stories for the Red this season, notched her 15th double-double of the year by adding a match-high 14 kills and 10 digs in the 30-25, 30-27, 30-21 sweep win. Senior middle blockers Ashely Stover and Jamie Lugo both tallied 13 kills — a season high for Lugo — as the Red trounced the Bulldogs in almost every conceivable way, recording more kills (53-43), digs (54-50), and blocks (12-4).
“I was happy we all performed well in the last matches,” Lugo said. “Everybody played well and we had a lot of fun.”
Lugo and the rest of the Red finished the season strong Saturday at Brown, icing the Bears 3-0 (30-23, 30-24, 30-26). As predicted, the final match turned out to be a record-setting day for Roe’s first recruiting class, with Stover finally smashing the Cornell record for career blocks with 406, surpassing the previous total of 404 set by Becky Merchant ’89. Lugo also cemented herself as the Red’s all-time leader in blocks per game (1.24) with five against the Bears. Sophomore libero Kelly Kramer also refused to be left out, registering 11 digs in her final match to raise her season average to 4.18 digs per game, good enough for first in the Cornell record books.
Yet according to Roes, the records were not just the result of individual achievement, but came from an entire team effort.
“Those records are a result of the support group behind those people,” Roes stated. “Every player was so team-oriented and positive; I never once heard anything from the players who weren’t playing as much. We just worked so hard every day and stepped it up on the court.”
For the first time since her tenure began at Cornell, Roes will be saying goodbye to seniors she has coached since they came in as freshmen. Lugo, Stover, outside hitter and multiple record holder Debbie Quibell, and setter Rachel Rice have all played their final matches in a Red uniform, and will be deeply missed by the team next season. In the last four years, the Red has compiled a 72-34 overall record and four straight winning seasons.
“The seniors have truly built this program to where it is today,” Roes said. “When I first came here, we didn’t have the athletes or the attitude to be successful. Now, [Cornell] can count on volleyball to have a winning season year in and year out. I’m really proud of that.”
Yet, for at least Lugo, volleyball will not be simply a memory of the past. The Long Beach, Calif. native will spend the winter training for a stint with Las Gigantes de Carolina of the Federaci