In its quest for a third consecutive Ivy League championship, the volleyball team may face no tougher hurdle than its pair of matches this weekend as it hosts first-place Yale tonight before facing an ever-dangerous Brown team tomorrow afternoon.
[img_assist|nid=19256|title=Set focus|desc=Senior outside hitter Alex Dyer digs a ball in a 3-0 sweep of Syracuse this past Tuesday inside Newman Arena. (Robert Bonow / Sun Photo Editor)|link=popup|align=left|width=66|height=100]
This challenge, however, may be coming at one of the most opportune times for the Red (12-8, 6-2 Ivy) as it rides a three-match winning steak going into the weekend. Playing some of its most cohesive, team-focused volleyball this season, Cornell swept Syracuse — a team it had not beaten since 1987 — in its most recent appearance this past Tuesday in Ithaca.
“If we continue to play as a team, we’re going to be awesome,” said senior co-captain Elizabeth Bishop. “We’re especially pumped heading into [tonight’s] game playing as well as we are. We’re all really excited for this weekend.”
Yale (12-5, 7-1) enters the match against Cornell holding a one-match advantage over the second-place Red. Having already lost to the Bulldogs in New Haven, Conn., earlier this season, a second loss to Yale would be a devastating blow to Cornell’s title hopes.
History, however, is on the Red’s side, as exactly 364 days ago, Cornell won the last three games in a 3-2 victory at Yale in order to clear its path to the Ivy League crown. As it seeks a result similar to last year’s contest, the Red is hoping that a victory could act as a catalyst for another title run, though the team knows it will not come easily.
“[As defending league champions] we feel like we always have a target on our backs,” Bishop said. “Right now, though, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose — it’s a must-win for us.”
Bishop also explained that the team is hoping to enjoy a sizeable home-court advantage, especially after its experience playing at Yale earlier this season when friends and parents of the Bulldogs’ players wore shirts saying “Chew on the Big Red.”
“We feel like we have a big home-court advantage when we play at home and we want as many fans out there as possible,” Bishop said.
On the court, Cornell will have to watch out for the Bulldogs’ Alexis Crusey and Shannon Farrell, who are both averaging over four kills per game on the season. After neutralizing much of Syracuse’s attack with aggressive blocking this past Tuesday, the Red will look to repeat that performance in order to shutdown the duo of Yale standouts.
Cornell will also have to keep tabs on Laurel Johnson, who leads the Bulldogs with 1.19 blocks per game.
Meanwhile, in tomorrow’s contest against Brown (8-12, 4-4), the Red will have the unenviable task of trying to slow a Bears team that has been on a tear recently, winning its last three Ivy contests while moving into the fourth-place position in the league standings.
Again, the Red will have to deal with several offensive threats from its opponent. Rikki Baldwin and Shawn-Elyse Tulac lead Brown in kills with 3.66 and 3.33 kills per game respectively. Julie Mandolini-Trummel is also an ever-present threat for the Bears, and leads the team’s top hitters with a .261 attack percentage while adding 2.69 kills per contest.
Despite the talent of its opponents, the Red remains confident and is looking forward to this weekend’s play.
“We’re feeling really good right now and will be very prepared and focused for these matches,” Bishop said. “We’re excited about it.”