As it swept through the Cornell Invitational last weekend with a perfect 3-0 record, the volleyball team looked strong, confident, and ready to take on anyone. And despite a discouraging week of practice filled with injuries and illness, the Red (4-2) feels just as capable of bringing home a victory at the IPFW Invitational in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“We’re just going in like we know our game,” said senior setter Kristin Hughes. “Both teams will be good competition. We don’t know much about them but we’ll go in and do our best.”
The Red will face off against Belmont (10-7) today at 5:00 p.m., and then take on the hosts tomorrow night. Belmont, like Cornell, has momentum on its side, having won three of its last four matches, including victories over Birmingham Southern and Jackson State at the BSC Challenge last weekend. The Bruins have six players averaging at least 1.95 kills per game, led by outside hitter Lindsay Clevelands’ 3.44 kpg. Belmont’s other statistical leaders are setter Colleen Nilson, who is averaging 11.94 assists per game, and libero Ashley Collier, who has recorded 3.78 digs per game this season.
The IPFW Mastodons will put a nationally ranked winning percentage on the line this weekend at their own tournament. The Mastodons (10-1) are ranked 24th nationally based on their record thus far. Before falling to then-No. 7 Florida at the Campus USA Credit Union Classic in Gainesville, Fla., IPFW had opened the season with an eight-match winning streak. The Mastodons returned to winning form, however, taking matches from Eastern Michigan and Ball State in Florida. Senior Fabiana Souza leads IPFW with 4.63 kills per game, and was ranked 30th in the nation in this category before her average dipped against Ball State. Souza is an all-around threat for the Mastodons, averaging 2.83 digs, 0.89 blocks, and 0.29 service aces per contest. She gets support from outside hitter Cynara Martins, who is averaging a team-high 3.63 digs per contest, as well as setter Erika Leitzke, who has handed out 12.41 assists per game this year. The Mastodons rank 17th in the country with 18.18 digs per game.
“I think the competition is good for us, regardless of whether they’re ranked or not,” said senior outside hitter Rachel Adomat. “Any team at our level or better is good for us.”
The Red has faced its toughest challenge of 2005not in a game situation as expected, but rather in practice this week. The team’s outside hitters saw limited practice time, due to injuries and sickness, and the team was unable to work on any key strategies for this weekend’s opponents.
“We’ve had bad weeks before and we’re capable of rebounding,” said head coach Deitre Collins. “It’s good that this is happening now, it will help us for the season.”
Despite the discouraging practice sessions, the Red remains confident that its skills and teamwork will be ready for whatever Belmont and IPFW bring to the court this weekend. Although the outside hitters were hurting, the rest of the team remains in fighting form. Adomat will be looking to follow up her MVP performance at the home tournament, in which she averaged 4.75 kills, 0.62 digs, and 0.25 blocks over eight games. Senior co-captain and libero Kelly Kramer was also named to the all-tournament team after notching 4.44 digs and 0.44 service aces per game, as well as earning her 1,000th career dig and moving into third place on Cornell’s all-time rankings.
Kramer’s co-captain, senior setter Whitney Fair, topped the 2,300-assist milestone while averaging 11.83 helpers per game this season. The Red will also have two-time All-Ivy first team selection, junior Elizabeth Bishop playing at her outside hitter position, where she has been averaging a team-best 4.65 kills per game.
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor