Forget preseason scrimmages or easy non-conference opponents to start the schedule. The volleyball team will be facing the challenges of the 2005 campaign head on when it begins play in the Duke Invitational today. With games against Southern Methodist (2-1) and Charlotte (0-6) today, and Duke (2-1) tomorrow, the Red (0-0) will be facing tough competition right from the start.
“The competition is very good, it’s a great level for us,” said head coach Deitre Collins. “The reason we schedule these teams that we have is to help us prepare for the Ivy League. We knew we needed better competition. I don’t have any expectations one way or another except for us to go play hard. SMU and Duke definitely be games where we have to play our best in order to win.”
The defending Ivy League co-champions will feel some dejà vu today, as the team opened the 2004 season against SMU at the Fremont Investment & Loan Invitational at Cal State Northbridge. Cornell lost the match, 3-1.
“Some of the girls have at least some bit of revenge that they want in there,” Collins said. “Last year when we opened they were new with me and doing different things, but the returners are very comfortable. I think they’re very ready to play and playing this summer in Italy helped too.”
Among the 15 members of the traveling squad will be three freshmen and the team’s two junior transfers, Alex Dyer and Thais Mirela.
“The newcomers are still getting it. I don’t think they can understand until we play a match,” Collins said. “The thing that’s trickled down is how hard we work. Understanding who we are takes time and matches. – I think our two transfers probably stand the best opportunity to help us.”
The experienced players on the team will also be ready to contribute. Junior outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop had 20 kills and 19 digs the last time the Red faced SMU. Seniors Heather Young, Katie Rademacher, and Joanna Weiss make up a corps of middle blockers that ranked first in the Ivy League a season ago with 3.04 blocks per game. Senior co-captains Whitney Fair and Kelly Kramer will provide leadership for the setters and the back row, respectively.
“I haven’t got a strategy yet until I see us play – I think we have a core of good people and we’re playing well,” Collins said.
A disadvantage for the Red is that while all of its opponents have several matches under their belts, Cornell will be in its first live game of the season.
“It’s the nature of being in the Ivy League,” Collins said. “All we can really do is focus on what we can do. I think the only good thing for us right now is that we’re just ready to play. We can’t worry about the fact of what experience they have – we’re worried about where we’re going to go this year.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor