A year has passed. The volleyball team is a year older, a year wiser, and there is now a sense of unfinished business.
For the Red, the 2004 season ended in a heartbreaking fashion – Cornell fell two points short as it lost to Yale, 3-2, in the final game of a four-way playoff for the league’s solo bid to the national championship tournament. Cornell (8-2, 1-0 Ivy) will have its first chance to avenge that loss tomorrow, when it faces Yale (10-1, 1-0 Ivy) in Newman Arena. But before the Red gets another shot at the Bulldogs, the volleyball team will take on Brown (3-9, 0-1 Ivy) tonight.
Cornell comes into the weekend riding a seven game winning streak including a win in their first Ivy contest last Saturday against Columbia. The Red hopes the momentum and confidence gained by the streak will carry over into the highly anticipated weekend.
“We’re just playing like we are supposed to,” Collins said. “It allows us to just take care of business. It gives you confidence when day in and day out, you’re consistently hitting pretty well, you’re digging pretty well, and blocking pretty well. That is the kind of team we aspire to be. You have to come beat us because we aren’t going to beat ourselves.”
While the team has dubbed this weekend “Banner Weekend,” and will alumni and families for a special celebration featuring the raising of banners honoring the ’91, ’92, ’93, and ’04 Ivy League championship teams, it could have just as easily been named “dejà vu weekend,” as games against Brown and Yale proved to be significant turning points in the Red’s fortunes last season. Last November, the Red swept Brown, creating a four-way tie for first place in the Ivy League and forcing the subsequent playoff from which Yale emerged victorious.
The match against Brown should provide its fair share of fireworks, as the Bears yield a balanced attack featuring outside hitters Shawn Tulac, Julie Mandolini-Trummel, and Lauren Gibbs, who average 2.88, 2.79, and 3.09 kills per game, respectively. To counter a rapid and tenacious Cornell attack, Brown will rely heavily on defense from likes of Leigh Martin and Katie Lapinski. From the setter position, Martin has recorded team highs in assists, service aces, and is third on the team with 99 digs.
“We can’t look past Brown and only think about Yale,” Collins said. “Our overall goal is just winning matches. The Ivy League has always had a bunch of parity in that anybody can beat anybody. Brown played Yale well last week even though they lost. We have to show up every day, play well every game, and everything will take care of itself.”
The match against Yale will pit the early-season leaders in the Ivy League against each other. Cornell and the Bulldogs rank first and second in every statistical team category, with the exception of service aces, and Yale brings its own winning streak of nine games to court.
On paper, the teams promise to match-up for an action-packed night. Three 2004 first team All-Ivy selections will be on the floor, as the Red’s Elizabeth Bishop will line up opposite Yale’s Shannon Farrell and Jacqueline Becker. Bishop won ECAC Division I Player of the Week honors two weeks ago and Becker won the same honor for her play this past week.
At the setter position, Becker and Cornell senior Whitney Fair rank first and second, respectively, in the Ivy League in assists per game. Cornell sophomore Amy Gordon has also played extremely well – giving the Red two starting quality setters that serve as a powerful one-two punch. Cornell’s senior libero Kelly Kramer, who averages 4.23 digs per game, will line up opposite the Bulldogs libero Anja Perlebach, who averages 5.55 digs per game.
“There is definitely an added motivation,” Fair said. “It wasn’t fun not going to the tournament. We’re trying to approach both games as equals and come away with wins.”
Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Staff Writer