November 8, 2006

Volleyball Meshing as Season’s End Nears

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Only three weeks ago, the volleyball team lost a heart-breaking 3-2 match to Colgate — its third loss in five games — and appeared to be losing its grasp on what had seemed to be a promising season. Already with two losses in the Ivy League, it was clear that one more conference defeat could end the Red’s championship dreams.
Fortunately for Cornell, it was at that time that the squad finally hit its stride.

“It was the weekend after that Colgate loss that we turned it around,” said head coach Deitre Collins-Parker. “Since then, we’ve been continuing to raise our level of play each week.”

After dominating Dartmouth and Harvard in that weekend Collins-Parker referred to, Cornell has since ripped off five more consecutive wins to move itself into the top spot of the Ivy standings.

[img_assist|nid=19692|title=Drill sargeant|desc=Senior Katie Rademacher hammers the ball into the Yale defense in the Red’s 3-1 win over the Bulldogs on Oct. 27.|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=83]

Now, as the Red prepares to wrap up its regular season schedule with a pair of matches against Penn and Princeton this weekend, it seems like the best possible time for Cornell to be playing its most pressure packed contests of the season.

“We’re definitely peaking at the right time,” Collins-Parker said. “Just knowing that we have a legitimate shot at the championship has really helped us pick up our game.”

If the Red beats both the Quakers and Tigers, it will clinch its third consecutive Ivy League championship and second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. However, if the Red falters, the door will open for either Princeton or Yale — two teams that are both within one game of Cornell in the league standings.

“We know everyone wants to see us lose and that those teams are going to come out play their best against us,” Collins-Parker said. “Its exciting more than anything else. It’s all on the line — there’s nothing to lose.”

Looking back on her team’s seven game win streak, the coach ties the recent success to an overall improvement in the cohesion of her squad.

“They’re a lot more comfortable with each other now. They each understand their roles and have picked up their intensity.”

She also gives a lot of credit to senior outside hitter Alex Dyer and freshman libero Megan Mushovic. Dyer, a junior transfer, did not see much playing time a year ago but has come on strong this season as she is currently ranked second on the team with 3.48 kills per game. In the Red’s most recent match at Dartmouth, Dyer led all attackers with 26 digs and also added 13 assists.

Meanwhile, Mushovic, the team’s primary libero since the start of the season, has proven herself as a key defensive player for the Red. For the season, Mushovic leads the team with 4.48 digs per game and is third on the team with 19 service aces.

“[Dyer and Mushovic] have begun to really mesh well with the team the past few weeks,” said Collins-Parker. “They have really helped us out a lot.”

Though Cornell has dominated throughout much of its current winning streak — it has won 21 of the 26 games it has played during that span — the Red did endure one close call this past weekend. After dropping the first two games at Harvard, the team displayed incredible resiliency as it battled its way to the 3-2 victory.

“We were on a mission in that match. We were determined not to lose and once we got in stride it really went our way,” Collins-Parker said. “[Senior Alaina Town] really helped us turn it around. She stepped up her play in the third game and the team rallied around her.”