September 24, 2008

Red Volleyball to Take On Syracuse in Home Opener

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There’s no place like home. At least that’s what the volleyball team is hoping, as it dusts itself off after a tough 1-5 start to the preseason and focuses on preparing for its first homestand of 2008, beginning with a match against Syracuse tonight. Despite two rough away tournaments, the Red is coming off a solid 3-2 victory against Maine last Saturday, which it hopes will be the catalyst it needs in order to remain in the win column. The Orange (6-8) is also coming off a win, however, after defeating Princeton, last year’s Ivy champ, 3-0 on Saturday.
In their last meeting, the Orange defeated Cornell in Syracuse, 3-1, and currently leads the all-time series record 29-9-1. But with both teams coming off victories into tonight’s matchup, it will take more than an analysis of win streaks to determine which team will come out on top.
On Saturday, Cornell showed it’s capable of deploying a tough defense during its 3-2 win over Maine. Junior libero Megan Mushovic and senior captain Hilary Holland both had 21 digs, while the defense combined for 15 total blocks. Freshman outside hitter Meagan Tatum had a standout effort, leading the Red with six kills for an offense that finished with a hitting percentage of .361 percent.
“We definitely had to work out some bugs [over the past two tournaments],” Mushovic said. “But that’s what those tournaments are for. We all got on the same page and it showed in the last game. We just need to make sure we do what we did in our last game [tonight against Syracuse].”[img_assist|nid=32036|title=Setting the stage|desc=Senior captain Hilary Holland (2) helped out for the Red’s first win with 44 assists in last weekend’s match against Maine.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Mushovic mentioned errors as a statistic Cornell had needed to lower over the course of last weekend’s tournament, and did by the last match. “Blocking did a really good job” against Maine, she said, which contributed to both her and Holland’s strong dig tallies.
Head coach Deitre Collins-Parker has repeatedly emphasized her philosophy that a tough preseason can be beneficial going into Ivy play, a theory echoed by this year’s upperclassmen, and a win against Big East competitor Syracuse would go a long way towards proving them right.
“We’ve definitely learned a lot,” Holland said. “This will help us in Ivy play. We’ve definitely matured, played well as a team.”
Holland said that the team understands how potentially difficult the match may be, but that they remain confident. In fact, the challenge is acting as an extra motivator.
“We know they’re good,” she said.
But the fact that they’re good doesn’t mean Cornell can’t come in and “make a statement” of its own.
Mushovic cautioned against taking too much stock in outside factors such as career histories or even recent opponents.
Yesterday the team spent time looking over Syracuse game film, picking out the Orange’s strengths and weaknesses, before going out on the court to practice how to deal with what they saw.
“I think that teams always play differently against different teams,” she said. “[Who they’ve beaten so far this season] doesn’t mean anything to us.”
After a somewhat disappointing season last year, Cornell is eager to return to the top of the Ivy pile. Despite the early losses, Holland said she thinks the team is in better shape now than they were a year ago.
“We’re a closer-knit team this year,” she said. “We’ve got good leadership and all of the upperclassmen play,” which is very important when trying to shepherd along the new recruits.
So far, this year’s freshman class seems to be doing well as they make the transition from high school to collegiate level — a point evidenced by Tatum’s recent success.
“Freshman year is a big learning curve,” Holland said. “I think that [the freshmen] are taking everything in stride.”
Holland said that Tatum in particular seems “really comfortable” in practice and during games.
Tonight’s midweek matchup will have special significance for the simple reason that it is the Red’s first home match of the year.
“I’m just really excited,” Mushovic said. “I think we always play well [at home]. We have a really big fan base. It’s our gym, and no one’s going to beat us in our gym.”