November 11, 2005

Volleyball Ready to Battle Pair of Rivals

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With victories over Penn (8-15, 5-6 Ivy) and Princeton (14-8, 5-6) this weekend, the volleyball team could achieve an unprecedented feat – become the first Ivy League team to go undefeated in league play since the conference went to a 14-game format in 2001. But as it has all season, the team is taking it one game at a time, focusing on earning the single victory that would assure it sole possession of a league championship.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure to go 14-0, that would just be a bonus. It’s not something we have to do – 13-1 we have to do,” said head coach Deitre Collins.

As the case has been all season long, the Red (19-3, 12-0) enters the final weekend of league play with a bulls-eye on its back. Penn and Princeton, who lost to Cornell by identical scores of 3-0 earlier this season in Newman Arena, will be looking to become the first team to take a match from the Red this season.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” Collins said. “And I think Princeton is playing better than they have been playing, so anything can happen. – The seniors have never won at Penn, so there are some mental things that we have to get past and just go out and play.”

The Quakers have struggled lately, dropping three consecutive matches and eight of their last 10. However, Penn has a balanced offense, with five players averaging more than 2.00 kills per game. Setter Linda Zhang ranks sixth in the Ancient Eight with 9.31 assists per game, as well as eighth in hitting percentage (.269). The defense is anchored by outside hitter Cara Thomason and libero Elizabeth Hurst, who rank fifth and sixth in the league with 4.08 and 4.06 digs per game, respectively.

Tomorrow the Red will face Princeton, which has been inconsistent in league play, dropping matches to Yale and Brown last weekend after sweeping Dartmouth and Harvard the week before. However, the Tigers have been consistent statistically, led by outside hitter Jenny McReynolds, who is ranked second in the nation with 6.50 digs per game. Parker Henritze is second in the league – behind Cornell’s junior Elizabeth Bishop – with 4.76 kills per game, and 15th in the nation with 0.60 aces. Jenny Senske is second in the Ivies with 12.74 assists per game, while Lindsey Ensign (.387) and Brittany Wood (.301) are second and fifth, respectively, in hitting percentage behind the league leader, the Red’s junior Joanna Weiss (.408). The Tigers also lead the conference with 2.14 service aces per game.

However, the Red is confident that its own numbers and skills will be enough to get the job done.

“We’ve been doing a good job of closing out games and winning matches, and so we just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Collins said.

Bishop, who has been averaging 5.03 kills per game, needs one more kill to set a new career record for the Cornell program. Weiss has hit .517 over the last five matches, averaging 4.11 kills and 1.67 blocks per game. The Red’s senior co-captains have also put up big numbers on the court, as setter Whitney Fair is handing out 13.06 assists per game and libero Kelly Kramer is averaging 5.16 digs per game. The team will be back on the road after sweeping Harvard, Dartmouth, and Columbia by a combined score of 9-1 in its final homestand of the season last weekend.

“Everybody [on the team] recognizes that we don’t want to give anybody confidence that they can beat us,” Collins said. “Playing well [Monday] against Columbia, and just the excitement that it’s in our control and we have to do it, we tend to rise to the occasion. So home or away or whatever, we’re just going to get it done.”

Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor