Tomorrow night, amidst hundreds of Cornell fans inside Newman Arena, the volleyball team will play its most important game of the season. A win against rival Yale would earn the squad a share of first place atop the Ivy League standings, while a loss would force the Red to spend the rest of the short season praying that the Bulldogs lose two games in Ivy play in order to force a playoff at the end of the season for a trip to the NCAA tournament. The latter would be a very unlikely scenario.
And while the players on the team remain confident in their abilities to get the job done come 7:00 p.m. tomorrow night, Rachel Adomat has no choice but to bite her nails, watch the game through her fingers and struggle to keep her composure throughout the entire match, knowing she’ll get absolutely no minutes in this year’s contest.
Rachel Adomat is the rarest of rarities in collegiate sport. Her role on the team is described as an undergraduate volunteer assistant coach. She makes no money, takes on the greater responsibility that comes with managing a team, takes on a teacher’s assistant role outside of the classroom, and at the end of the day, is forced to go home and tackle a rigorous Cornell course load. Still taking classes to finish up her engineering degree after four years of spent academic eligibility on East Hill, Adomat found that leaving the program after her last game as a senior against Long Island University in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year was too much to give up. The passion was still there and come tomorrow night, the butterflies that normally arise before big games will be greater than ever.
“I absolutely still get nervous,” Adomat said. “It’s not so much that I still want to go in there, but it’s more that I still want to see the team win. It’s such a big game and I want them to win, succeed and play well. It’s hard because all these girls are my best friends.”
That’s why when Adomat showed up in head coach Deitre Collins-Parker’s office at the end of last season asking for a spot on the coaching staff, it was a no-brainer to have the Houston native nicknamed “Tex,” on the sidelines helping with instruction.
“It’s just her personality,” Collins-Parker said in an interview at the start of the season. “She’s an easy going person, the girls like her, and I watch what she says to our players. She’s smart and she learned a lot over the past few years. It’s always nice to have a coach that played for you on your staff because they relay the things that you’ve been teaching. I listen to her speak with the girls and it’s just a great situation.”
With great situations come great outcomes, and if tomorrow night proves to be what the volleyball team hopes it will be, there should be another great chapter written in the history books of the Yale-Cornell rivalry. It’s something Adomat is well familiar with as a member of a squad last year that came back from a two games to none deficit in New Haven, Conn., to win three straight and send Cornell on its way to controlling its own destiny towards an NCAA tournament berth — something it had not tasted since 1993. Adomat had 14 kills in the contest as the team’s second option at outside hitter behind current senior Elizabeth Bishop.
Now that the uniform has changed for Adomat, something that hasn’t is how she is viewed by her teammates. While the transition of going from player to coach is something that every athlete fears, Adomat has seemed to take it in stride.
“The girls are pretty good with taking advice,” Adomat said. “It’s funny because a lot of the things that I will try and teach are the things that [assistant coach] Sarah Bernson has taught me. I learned so much from her and now it’s almost as if I’ll say something right before she starts to say it. I almost feel as if I’m taking the words out of her mouth.”
While athletes that quickly make the transition from player to coach often need time to build a rapport with their players, respect is something Adomat established a long time ago with this group of female athletes.
“Even the freshmen that she never played with still come up and ask her questions,” Collins-Parker said. “She worked hard as a player, got most out of what her body would allow her to do, and she’s just the prime example of an overachiever. Both in the classroom and on the floor, you want that on your staff.”