September 21, 2007

Volleyball Heads West for St. Mary’s, USF

Print More

For six girls on the volleyball team — senior Kara Zaragoza, juniors Hillary Holland and Emily Borman, sophomores Stephanie Comon and Megan Mushovic and freshman Jen Keane — this weekend is an early fall break. Although the six women technically will not be going home, they will be traveling to their home state, California, with the rest of the volleyball squad (3-5), to compete against St. Mary’s College (6-4) tonight and the University of San Francisco (10-5) tomorrow.
“St. Mary’s is in Marago, California, and it’s where our assistant coach Sarah Bernson played volleyball,” said senior captain Amy Gordon.
The real motivation for making such a long trip out to the West Coast is not to bask in the beautiful weather, but to gain match experience against skilled squads. This experience should prove to be especially advantageous for a team with so many young players who need to get used to playing at a college level. Tonight will be the first time that the Red plays against St. Mary’s since head coach Deitre Collins-Parker has been coaching at Cornell — four years. However, the Red suffered a painful loss in four games to the University of San Francisco at the Long Island Tournament last season, so it is anxious to step up its game against a talented team.
“We are playing each team on their home court, so I am certain each will be a battle,” Collins-Parker said. “Most Ivy teams try to get to California as often as possible because the level of competition is high and can help us prepare for the Ivy League.”
While the Ivy League championship is always in the back of her mind, Collins-Parker has worked hard to focus her squad on playing to its potential this weekend. After losing three matches in the American Tournament last weekend, it was necessary to bring the team back to basics in practice this week. It was also important to make sure the younger players were not discouraged by a few tough preseason games.
“I’m just reassuring everyone that it’s okay that we’re not ready yet and also letting people know that they are a really important part of the team, especially the freshmen,” Gordon said. “As freshman, you tend to feel you aren’t as big a part of the team as the juniors and seniors, but for us they are a huge part of the team. I’ve just been trying to give them a lot of confidence because they deserve it.”
Away matches are tougher for any team, but the Red tries to make playing away as much like competing at Newman Arena as possible. That’s why the volleyball team has a longstanding tradition in which all of the squad’s parents make every effort possible to attend the away games, so that the girls have a loud, supportive crowd to play for.
“Our parents fly in from all over to see us or drive up and bring cookies and all that kind of stuff,” Gordon said. “It creates a really awesome atmosphere because it’s like having home-court advantage when we’re away.”
The Red hopes that cheering and encouragement from its biggest fans combined with the thrill of playing against a higher level of competition will allow it to show the West Coast what East Coast volleyball players can really do.
“Our team goal is to play with no regrets and to play our best,” Gordon said. “We still haven’t played our best so I think we are waiting for it; we are excited for it, and I think we will do it this weekend.”