September 6, 2006

Volleyball Faces Tough Games Early and Often

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Nine months removed from its first-round loss in the NCAA tournament to Long Island University, the Cornell volleyball team will begin its season this weekend with an eye towards a third straight Ivy League title.
Although the meat of its season — Ivy League play — is still weeks away, rustiness is not an option for the Red, who will play 11 matches in 15 days. It’s a tough non-conference schedule that includes several NCAA tournament caliber teams.
“It’s not too tough a schedule that we shouldn’t win some games, but it should be an indication of where we are.” said head coach Deitre Collins-Parker. “There are definitely some highly competitive teams in that schedule though.”
First off, Cornell will take a cross-country trip to senior captain Liz Bishop’s Portland, Oreg. to play in the NIKE Portland Invite. Other participants include Porland, Texas-Pan American, Montana and High Point.
A week later, the Red will be back on East Hill to host St. John’s, Buffalo, American and Binghamton in the Big Red Invite. Finally, the squad will head to the Long Island Invite to face St. Francis, San Francisco and Long Island before kicking off its Ivy conference schedule by hosting Columbia on September 30th.
The match-up against Long Island has added significance after that team ended the Red’s postseason run a year ago. Long Island swept Cornell 3-0 in that contest, though two of those games were decided by a margin of just two points.
“We could have played a lot better in that game,” Collins said. “This match-up should be a good gauge of how we’re doing this year.
Games against Binghamton and San Francisco represent others that the Red will face in its early non-conference schedule as it tries to develop into a team that can make run at the Ivy crown. San Francisco has been ranked No. 10 nationally by an early season poll, while Binghamton was an NCAA qualifier a year ago.
Beyond the high level of competition, the Red will also have to deal with playing 12 of its first 17 games on the road. A year ago, Cornell went 6-4 away from Ithaca, a stark contrast to the perfect, 11-0 record it achieved at home. This time around, the Red will have to hang tough on the road, especially with five of its first six Ivy League games away, in order to keep its title hopes alive through the first half of its conference season.
Despite all these concerns, Collins is confident and excited about her team, especially the upperclassmen led by Bishop — the returning Ivy League Player of the Year and an All-America selection.
“The senior class will carry us this year,” the coach said. “We’ve been working really hard and we’re excited to get out there. We’ve been doing a lot of scrimmaging and we’re looking forward to playing somebody besides ourselves.”[img_assist|nid=18089|title=Taking Kara business|desc=Junior defensive specialist/libero Kara Zaragoza lines up a serve during a match last season.|link=none|align=left|width=0|height=100]