November 12, 2004

Ivy Title in Spikers' Grasp

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There will never be any more pressure on the volleyball team as there will be this weekend, when the Red (15-7, 9-3 Ivy) plays for the top spot in the Ivy League against conference rivals Yale (12-7, 7-4 Ivy) and Brown (7-15, 4-7 Ivy). The Red split its series last weekend to remain tied with Harvard for the top spot in the conference.

“If we’re going to win Ivies, we have to win these two matches,” said head coach Deitre Collins. “Then we’ll focus on what Harvard does.”

Indeed, if Cornell can pull out these two matches, the Red will garner at least a share of the Ivy title, the squad’s first since 1993. However, two strong teams still stand in Cornell’s way, and with several players for the Red not at 100 percent, recovering to be able to play to full capacity in the next two days is a key factor.

Yale will be the Red’s first major challenge this weekend, and arguably the biggest part of the hump that Cornell has to get over. The last time the Red met the Bulldogs, Yale came away with a come-from-behind 3-2 win after Cornell led 2-1 in the match. Despite Kelly Kramer’s school record-tying 36 kills, Cornell proceeded to drop two straight games and lose the match.

Yale will certainly be no pushover for the Red, with several superstars on the squad that litter the top ranks of the Ivy League. Junior Renee Lopes is fourth in hitting percentage in the Ivies (.288). In addition, classmate Jacqueline Becker leads the conference in assists with 11.96. As far as intangibles are concerned, as the Red learned last time, this is not a squad that tends to give up easily.

“We already lost at Yale,” Collins said earlier this week when asked about getting ready for the important weekend. “So we’re resting a couple of kids that have injuries [in preparation].”

When the Red faced Brown last, Cornell was able to pick up a sweep, 30-23, 30-28, 30-26. Brown has struggled this year, falling to sixth in the Ivy League. However, the Bears have several individual threats, including junior Lauren Gibbs, who is third in the Ivies in kills per game (3.76). Additionally, junior Leigh Martin is second in the conference in assists (11.90), behind only Yale’s Jacqueline Becker, and 10th in service aces per game (0.32). And, despite Kelly Kramer’s stellar season at libero for Cornell, it is Brown’s senior Elvina Kung who currently leads the Ivy League in digs per game with 6.81.

Regardless, the past probably says very little about what will happen this weekend. With the Red’s ups and downs over the past few weeks and the stress that is on the team to win, Cornell fans will see whether pressure truly makes diamonds.

However, Collins stressed that winning is not everything.

“No one really expected anything except for us as a team,” the first year coach emphasized. “I came here because these kids expected to win the Ivies. It’s just exciting to get to come out and play to win.”

Archived article by Mike Pandolfini
Sun Staff Writer