October 3, 2008

Cornell Hopes to Surprise Favorites

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One must regard 2007 as an anomaly when taking stock of Deitre Collins-Parker’s extensive success at the helm of Cornell volleyball. The head coach was a two-time collegiate player of the year at the University of Hawaii and has led the Red to three Ivy League titles and two national tournament showings in four years.
But after losing 10 seniors from the 2005 and 2006 teams, Collins-Parker faced a tough rebuilding mission in the 2007 season. The team finished with an unimpressive 9-16 record — far off the 18-9 mark set in 2006. There were some bright spots in the season, however. Junior libero Megan Mushovic was named first team all-Ivy and senior middle blocker Emily Borman was named to the second team.
Rebuilding isn’t a new concept to Collins-Parker, however.
“We’re definitely headed in the right direction,” Collins-Parker said. “That’s what’s really exciting.”
Senior setter Hilary Holland will serve as the Red’s captain this season. Holland is one of three seniors on the team and has her mind set on returning the Red to the top of the Ivy standings.
“We know what it’s like to win and we want to get back to that,” Holland said. “We don’t want another season like last year.”
Borman and right side Kathryn Woodbury round out the senior leaders for the Red. Borman led the team last season in blocks per game with 1.08, good for fourth in the Ancient Eight. Woodbury is a lefty who allows Cornell to have a reliable, consistent attack on the right side.
The senior trio will be surrounded by a capable cast of underclassmen, including Mushovic, the Red’s defensive whiz. The libero averaged 6.16 digs per game in her sophomore season, which ranked her No. 8 in the nation. Her 1,063 career digs in only two seasons already ranks No. 6 on Cornell’s all-time list. The rest of the underclassmen are no less important to the team’s success.
“People like [Holland and Mushovic] have really improved over the years and are really good,” Collins-Parker said. “We just needed to develop a supporting cast.”
Part of that supporting cast will be made up of a talented class of freshmen that has already contributed in the Red’s tough preseason . Kelly Hansen, a 6-4 middle blocker who has already seen plenty of playing time this season, will bring talent as well as a tall, physical presence at the net in her first year with the Red.
“We really wanted her to be a good blocker,” Collins-Parker said. “Offensively she’s getting really comfortable.”
Other frosh expected to contribute are Jordan Reeder, who will back up Holland at setter, outside hitter Meagan Tatum and Risa Ka’awa, a versatile defensive specialist who will spell Mushovic.
The coaching staff wanted to really emphasize versatility and depth in the offseason, so the players have been training at different positions and Collins-Parker is still tweaking her lineup to find the perfect combination for the Ivy season.
If all goes according to plan, the versatile squad should be able to play the underdog role all the way to the Ivy title.
“There’s no pressure on us,” Collins-Parker said. “And we’re more competitive this year than last year. … There are some teams in the Ivy League that are really strong right now, but I think they will be surprised [by us].”