Finally, the moment it has been waiting for. When the volleyball team takes the floor at Levein Gym tomorrow afternoon to face Columbia (2-8), the Red (7-2) will begin its campaign for a second straight Ivy League championship.
“This is where it all really begins, and this is hopefully the beginning of another Ivy League championship season for us, so we just go out and kind of come out strong,” said senior co-captain Whitney Fair.
The Red begins its league slate riding the momentum of a six-match winning streak, including a 3-0 victory over Binghamton on Wednesday night. But while the Red managed to add another success story to its young season against the Bearcats, taking three games by scores of 30-21, 30-27, and 30-22, it was apparent to the team that it played far from its best.
“We didn’t play as well as we could have, but it’s positive in that we still could win. I think it’s normal in the middle of the season to have a week that just doesn’t feel like everything else. I’m assuming that this is just a wrinkle in a good season,” said head coach Deitre Collins. “It was not fun to watch us play like that, none of the kids were satisfied playing like that, and we’ll work hard [at practice] because we played like that. But it’s nothing that’s indicative of what our season has been and what it’s going to be.”
The first step towards proving that the season will be a successful one will be a victory over the Lions – something the Red managed twice in 2004 – winning the annual contests by a combined score of 6-1. According to Collins, a repeat is a definite possibility.
“I feel confident that we should be further along than Columbia is. They’re still in a rebuilding stage,” she said. “But the one thing we did learn last year is that they can compete. … We know they have that ability. We have to play well in order to win.”
The Lions enter Ancient Eight play looking to snap a three-game skid, with its most recent defeat, a 3-0 loss, coming at the hands of Hofstra. Right side Natalie Gerling has emerged as a dangerous threat for Columbia, leading the team in kills in eight games this season.
Yet, the Red will be facing a young team, as the Lions have only a single senior and a lone junior on the roster.
“Their team was revamped about two years ago and they’re getting better and better every year, so we just have to go out and take them on,” Fair said. “We’re excited. They’re going to be good competition and we’re ready for them.”
This weekend the Red will be relying on junior outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop, who recorded her 1,000th career kill in Wednesday’s match, and is averaging a team-best 5.11 per game. Fair handed out a match-high 46 assists against the Bearcats, while classmate and co-captain libero Kelly Kramer is a steady force in the back for the Red. Junior outside hitter Joanna Weiss and sophomore Kara Zaragoza, a stalwart defender, have also emerged as essential role-players in the Red’s game plan.
“We’re definitely going to have to focus a lot more than we did [Wednesday] to beat Columbia or any of the other Ivy people. We want to come out and sort of make a statement – that this is the team that we are, and this is who we want to be,” Fair said.
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor