September 8, 2006

Volleyball to Debut on West Coast

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The volleyball team will begin its season in the Pacific Northwest this weekend, as Cornell travels to compete in the Nike Invitational in Portland, Ore.
“After practicing for two and half weeks and only seeing ourselves, we’re ready to play other teams and we’re excited,” said head coach Deitre Collins-Parker.
The tournament features four other schools — Portland, University of Texas-Pan American, Montana, and High Point. All four teams have all already begun their seasons, while the tournament will be the first action of the year for the Red, the defending Ivy League champions.
“For the start of a season, you try to get in as many matches as you can,” Collins noted. “The five-team tournament allows us to play four matches in two days.”
Cornell’s attack this year is led once again by senior co-captain Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop was the Ivy League Player of the Year last season, and she currently holds the program’s record for career kills. Bishop is also a native of Portland.
“We know her family is really excited; anytime you get a chance to go home it’s nice,” Collins said. “And the great thing is that [other players’] families will also be there, so it’s as much a homecoming for them as it is for Liz. Everybody’s excited and we should have a really good crowd for being that far from home.”
The Red will begin play this afternoon against Portland (2-3). Portland and Cornell have met only once, in a 3-0 win for the Pilots in 1994. Portland went 5-22 last year, and 2-12 in the West Coast Conference. The Pilots are coming off a 3-2 loss to Davidson.
The Pilots this year feature outside hitter Nicole Thometz, who currently leads her team with 69 kills. She is also second on the team in digs with 64, and last year she was second on the team in both kills and digs. Libero Murphy McClenahan leads the Pilots’ defensive efforts — she was second in the West Coast Conference last year in digs per game with 5.07 per game, and she is currently ranked fourth in the conference in that same category this year.
Cornell will also face University of Texas-Pan American (1-6) later today. The Lady Broncs are led by outside hitter Heather Bravo, who recorded 16 kills in her last match against Texas A&M-International. UTPA lost, 3-1, in that match.
Tomorrow, the Red will meet Montana (0-5) in the afternoon and High Point (1-3) later in the day. The Grizzlies are coming off a winless weekend at the AT&T Invitational, which was hosted by Nevada. Montana lost to both Nevada and Pacific at the tourney. The Grizzlies are led by outside hitter Claudia Houle, who is a two-time All-Big Sky Conference selection.
Meanwhile, High Point is coming off a 3-0 loss to East Tennessee State. The Panthers will look for strong performances from Sabrina Wahid and Audie Gonzalez, who had 17 kills in High Point’s last match.
Collins noted that the tournament will allow the Red to learn early in the season what its strengths and weaknesses are — knowledge that will be important as the team prepares for the Ivy League season ahead.
“[In preseason practice] we see ourselves against each other, but you really don’t know how someone is going to react in a real game,” Collins said. “[This weekend] gives us a chance to work out some kinks so we know what to focus on.”