It was a rollercoaster weekend for the Cornell volleyball team (16-3, 9-0 Ivy), as the Red overcame insurmountable odds to defeat rival Yale (16-3, 7-2 Ivy) this past Friday on the road in New Haven, Conn. After struggling early, down two games to none, and behind 28-23 in game three, Deitre Collins’ squad rallied to win three straight games in a match that has recently been described as an instant classic.
The monumental comeback gave the Red a two game cushion atop the Ivy League standings and it also produced some record-breaking and personal-best performances by senior libero Kelly Kramer and junior middle blocker Joanna Weiss. The two athletes have been cornerstones for Cornell and their efforts on the court have not gone unnoticed.
“Our goal this year was to be a balanced team,” Collins said. “Jo is now a huge threat and that makes things better for [junior] Liz [Bishop]. Jo being a factor makes our game that much more effective. On the defensive side of the ball, Kelly and our defensive specialists like [senior] Kristen Hughes and [sophomore] Kara Zaragoza keep us in games.”
Co-captain Kramer set a school record with 39 digs in the game against the Bulldogs. Last season, she tied Meredith Doughty’s ’92 school record with 36 digs against the same Yale team. Currently, the senior ranks third in the Ivy League with 4.51 digs per game.
“It takes a special person to play the libero position,” Collins said. “You have to really enjoy playing defense while most people like to hit. Physically, she’s in great shape. She’s a team leader in the weight room and on the floor. I’ve never considered anyone else at the position. That position is Kelly’s.”
The San Francisco native has also been the team’s iron woman, as she has been the only Cornell player to see action in all of the team’s 70 games so far this season. The workload is nothing new for Kramer – as a sophomore, she played in all of the Red’s 93 games.
“It’s never something I take for granted,” Kramer said. “I know every week if I don’t show up that I can be outplayed. At the same time, I want to be the solid player that people can rely on and look to for confidence on the court.”
Kramer ranks second all-time in the Cornell record books with 1,262 career digs – the mark is nine shy of the school record set by Jen Strazza ’92. Kramer will most likely break the record this Friday, as the Red hosts Harvard (3-17, 0-10 Ivy) at 7 p.m. in Newman Arena.
“I prepare by having the mentality that nothing will hit the floor,” Kramer said. “Sometimes it might not be pretty – you just throw a limb and hope for the best.”
Complimenting Kramer in the game against Yale was Weiss. The psychology major, who has received the Red’s most improved player award the last two seasons, has come into her own this year and has been a force for Cornell at the net. She set personal career highs in kills earlier in the season in consecutive matches against Yale and Syracuse before pounding out 20 and 21, respectively, against the Bulldogs and Brown this past weekend.
While last year’s first team All-Ivy selection Bishop receives much of the attention she rightfully deserves from opposing squads, Weiss has stepped up nicely and proved to be an automatic second option for the Red. She currently ranks second in the Ivy League with a .381 hitting percentage after only committing 42 errors in 59 games. Weiss is also second on the team with 208 kills.
“I’m gradually finding my comfort level on the court,” Weiss said. “With the entire team returning from last year, I have complete confidence in anyone that is on the floor. It makes your job easier as a player to know that you have five and then 16 people behind you. I’ve gotten rid of the nerves and I’ve built up confidence.”
Weiss also contributes on the defensive side of the ball – ranking second in the league in blocks per game with 1.24.
Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Staff Writer