September 28, 2007

Volleyball Begins Ivy Defense in New York City

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A new week is around the corner and with it comes the promise of more prelims, but also the possibility of a fresh start for Red volleyball (3-6), as the team heads to the Big Apple this Sunday for its first Ivy League match of the year against Columbia.
Until now, the tournaments Cornell had competed in counted toward its NCAA record, but not the Ivy League championship.
“We are very excited to start the Ivy season,” said senior captain Amy Gordon. “We are capable of winning the league, and that run is going to start on Sunday.”
This year, the defending champions will be vying for their fourth straight Ivy title, which would come with unquestionable Ancient Eight bragging rights, as well as greatly improving the Red’s chance of being selected to compete in the NCAA tournament..
“The preseason is built for us to compete well in the Ivy League,” said head coach Deitre Collins-Parker. “It’s what our focus is on.”
But it will be a test to see if the squad is ready to take on the rest of the league who will be looking to unseat the Ivy champ for three years running.
The Red is coming off last week’s double-header in California, where it was swept by both San Francisco and St. Mary’s. The weekend before that, the team went 1-3 against teams in the Patriot League at the American Invitational.
“I won’t know [whether the team’s ready] until we show up and play,” Collins-Parker said. “It’s hard to come off the past week and say we’re ready. I know that this is what we’re looking for.”
In last year’s match, Cornell had no trouble dispatching the Lions. The Red swept its opponents easily. But this year’s team is very different from the team that swept Princeton last November to take the league.
“We have talked a lot about making sure that we have confidence going into this weekend,” said senior co-captain Amy Gordon. “Although we have always beaten Columbia in the past, this is a new year, and we have a young team. We are expecting a tough match, and preparing accordingly.”
Gordon said that early-season losses against teams like Lafayette — a match the team agreed it should have won — taught Cornell to not get too far ahead of itself.
“We can’t just walk into a gym and win,” Gordon said.
Collins-Parker agreed.
“No matter what, if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we can’t take anybody for granted,” she said. “Everybody can beat anybody on any given day and anybody can beat you, so you better come out and play.”
Columbia has been growing through a lot of changes lately, with its coach quitting one day before the start of the season. Before every match, Cornell’s coaches and payers meet to watch game tape and discuss the best way to prepare for the particular’s opponents strengths and weaknesses.
“Columbia’s team is also very young this year,” Gordon said. “They have had a lot of ups and downs during the past few seasons, but they seem to be having some success as of late. They are significantly shorter than teams we have played recently, but they are very scrappy on defense.”
Collins-Parker said that the team has been using the preseason as a learning experience, as the younger players try and quickly get up to speed. The types of problems Cornell has encountered in their recent matches aren’t necessarily skill based as much as they can be contributed to the team’s inexperience.
“Our issues have been about our ability not to make mistakes,” Collins-Parker said. “I think that this year looks like it will be a different year. It’s a cop-out to say it’s a rebuilding year. It is an inexperienced year.”
She also echoed earlier statements that the year still remains impossible to predict right now.
“I came into this season not knowing what to expect,” Collins-Parker said. “What I know, is that we have potential. It’s up to [the team] to decide at what time they’re going to reach it.”