The fairy tale season proved too good to be true for the volleyball team this weekend, as the Red saw its undefeated league record crumble with losses to Penn Friday night, 3-2, and to Princeton on Saturday, 3-0. If second-place Yale defeats Brown on Wednesday, the Red would have to face the Bulldogs in a playoff match for the league’s berth in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s a little bit unreal,” said senior co-captain Kelly Kramer. “It’s disappointing. We didn’t come out of this weekend the way we had hoped, but I think it was a learning experience.”
Although junior outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop broke the Cornell record for career kills agaisnt the Quakers, leading the Red (19-5, 12-2 Ivy) with 17 kills and 20 digs on the night, the Red could not make the big plays needed to escape with a win. Kramer added 20 digs from her libero position, while sophomore defensive specialist Kara Zaragoza had 16. Sophomore setter Amy Gordon had 30 assists, while senior co-captain Whitney Fair had 13.
Penn (10-15, 7-6) beat the Red with a balanced offense, as four players reached double-digits in kills on the night. Laura Black had 16, while Kathryn Turner contributed 13. Two players had double-doubles, with Anna Shlimak coming up with 17 kills and 23 digs and Kara Thomason adding 18 kills and 30 digs. Elizabeth Hurst led the defense with a match-high 33 digs, and Linda Zhang saved her best performance of the season for the match against Cornell, handing out 62 assists.
The Red started off slow against Penn, dropping the first game, 30-22. However, the team regrouped and fought its way to a 2-1 lead with 30-25 and 30-20 wins in Game 2 and 3, respectively. The Quakers took Game 4, 30-25, forcing a tiebreaker. Despite the comeback earlier in the match, the Red could not put the Quakers away, falling 15-10 in the final game.
“We made mistakes at crucial times and they had the momentum,” Kramer said.
Penn out-hit Cornell, .220-.147, for the match, including a .400-.190 edge in the final game. The Quakers also limited the impact of Cornell’s junior middle blocker Joanna Weiss, who lead the conference with a .408 hitting percentage but was held to .188 for the match, converting on only 4-of-16 kill attempts.
“I think Penn played better than we expected,” head coach Deitre Collins said. “We didn’t rise to the level we needed to be at until the end, and it wasn’t enough.”
Cornell couldn’t recover its winning form against Princeton the next night, as the Red dropped a match without winning at least one game for the first time in 2005 since it’s season opener.
“With Princeton, you never know what you’re going to get when you play them and we got an amazing team on the other side of the net,” Kramer said. “We just couldn’t take advantage of their weaknesses.”
Bishop led the Red once again, recording a match-high 15 kills on .250 hitting and adding 19 digs for a double-double. Senior outside hitter Rachel Adomat and junior right side Alaina Town added nine digs each, Kramer had a team-high 26 digs, and Gordon haned out 26 assists.
Jenny McReynolds provided the spark for the Tigers (16-8, 7-6), registering 40 digs in an outstanding defensive effot. Lauren Grument and Parker Henritze added 12 kills each, while Lindsey Ensign also reached double figures with 11 kills. Emily Turner added four service aces, and Jenny Senske had a match-high 45 assists.
The Tigers defeated the Red in straight games, 30-24, 30-25, and 32-30, turning the tables on a Cornell team that swept them, 3-0, in Newman Arena on Oct. 14. Cornell had a chance for a third-game comeback, as late calls gave the Red a chance to take the game, but the team couldn’t rally at the end.
“Penn and Princeton played very well,” Collins said. “We haven’t played our best in a few weeks and we’ve been getting by with some wins.”
With the two losses, Cornell is just a half-game ahead of Yale in the conference standings. With a win over Brown on Tuesday – it’s final Ivy match of the season – Yale would force a playoff against the Red next weekend for the league’s NCAA national championship tournament bid. Last season, the Elis beat Cornell, 3-2, in a playoff game to earn a berth in the tournament.
“I think we had a lapse this weekend,” Bishop said. “It happens and there’s nothing you can do about it. Now we have to move on … We still do control our own destiny.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor