October 6, 2005

Volleyball Set to Honor Its History

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The banners decorating the rafters of Lynah Rink tell the story of an old and successful program, and immediately let visitors know that they will be facing excellence when they step on the ice below. This weekend, the volleyball team will follow the lead of the men’s hockey team by raising its own championship banners next door in Newman Arena.

The Red will host Ivy League opponents for the first time this season tomorrow night and Saturday afternoon. Head coach Deitre Collins felt it would be a perfect opportunity for members of the Cornell volleyball team, past and present, to celebrate old and new championships that the program has earned.

“With me being new to the campus, I wanted a way to connect with the [alumni]. And then we also wanted to celebrate, obviously, winning the championship last year,” Collins said. “We didn’t really get to do anything formal around getting our rings or anything, and so we came up with the idea of getting a banner because they had never really hung banners before. So we tied that in with the other three Ivy championship teams who never really got to do anything either.”

The Red claimed three consecutive league championships from 1991-93, and were the Ancient Eight’s first representative to the sport’s national championship tournament in 1993. Eleven years later, Collins coached Cornell to its fourth championship. This time around, the Red shared the title with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, and all four teams competed in a playoff for the league’s solo bid to the national tournament. The Red fell to Yale, 3-2, in the finals of the playoff – losing the fifth game by a mere two points.

The predecessors of last year’s championship squad also claimed four consecutive New York State championships from 1982-85 under the leadership of former head coach Andrea Dutcher. Jolene Nagel, currently the head coach for the Duke volleyball team, coached the Red to two more state championships, before guiding the ’91 squad to the program’s first league title. Merja Connolly was the coach of the Red’s other two Ivy League championship squads, all of which will be recognized this weekend.

“We invited all alumni to come back in honor of hanging those [banners],” Collins said. “And then just kind of recognizing everybody that has done something at Cornell volleyball in the past.”

Collins is expecting a total of nearly one hundred people for this weekend’s events, including former players, their families, and the families of current student-athletes. The Red will host a reception tomorrow, along with an alumni game to be played on Saturday. Besides giving athletes, past and present, a chance to see the championships recognized, Collins is also eager for current players to hear the stories from those that came before them.

“We have a lot [of players] coming back from the earlier years and a lot from the first team that Andrea Dutcher coached the first year,” Collins said. “That’s what nice about this weekend – [current players will] have a chance to get to meet more people. We’ve always had alumni – you know, sporadic alumni that come and say, ‘Oh, I played volleyball at Cornell,’ and so they’ve met people like that – I guess they have had some interaction, but hopefully this will be the biggest ever.”

The Red (8-2, 1-0 Ivy) will face Brown tomorrow, and then take on Yale on Saturday. The fact that her team will face the opponent that beat the Red for a bid to the national tournament is just a coincidence, Collins said. However, she is excited about the extra support the alumni will provide during Saturday’s match, before which the actual banners will be raised.

“We just wanted to pick a good weekend for people to come and enjoy volleyball. We didn’t necessarily want to pick Yale, but it just happens to be our first home [weekend],” Collins said. “To know that we have at least one hundred people – that we’ll just get a great crowd and give us a home court advantage. We look forward to it.”

Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor