When the volleyball team beat Columbia on Saturday, 3-2, the Lions must have felt some sense of déjà vu after losing to Cornell for the second time in a week.
Unfortunately, Cornell was unable to maintain its momentum going into its match the next day.
Ultimately, the Red ended up splitting its double-header in New York City this weekend, winning the first match against Columbia on Saturday but losing to a stronger Long Island, 1-3, on Sunday, earning everyone a long and exhausting bus ride home last night.
With the win against Columbia (5-6, 0-2 Ivy League), Cornell remains undefeated in the Ivy League at 2-0, 3-8 overall, with both wins having come at the expense of the Lions.
Unlike last Saturday’s 3-0 sweep at Newman Arena, Cornell did not easily overpower the Lions in their second meeting, this time around at their home court.
“I’d give a lot of credit to Columbia,” said senior captain Hilary Holland. “They played a lot better than the first time we saw them.
Head coach Dietre Collins-Parker agreed, saying the Lions did a very good job using the week between matches to prepare for the rematch.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Collins-Parker said. “They had a chance to adjust some things. They definitely did a good job with their game plan against us.”[img_assist|nid=32453|title=Sharing is caring|desc=Sophomore outside hitter Erin McCarthy (12) passes the ball during the Red’s 2-3 loss against Robert Morris on Sept. 28.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
That said, Collins-Parker said she was never actually worried her team wasn’t going to prevail.
“There was never a time that I thought we were going to lose,” she said. “I think we could have won a little easier.”
The key for the Red’s ultimate success was confidence.
“We just seemed to play with a confidence when we play in the Ivies that we don’t have outside of the Ivy League,” Collins-Parker said.
“We were very confident against [Columbia],” Holland said.
The problems the Red did have, Holland said, had to with consistency.
“We started off a little slow,” she said. “We were not as consistent as we could have been. We kind of thought [Columbia] was going to give up.”
But Columbia never did give up, fighting Cornell all the way to fifth game in which the Lions held a 9-5 lead, with only six points left to the win.
The first game was very close, with the Lions scoring first, but Cornell getting on the board and staying close the entire way. A 21-21 tie was broken by Columbia, which went on to take the one-game lead with the 23-25 win.
In the second game, Cornell scored first and didn’t let Columbia get a foot in the door, winning easily after a fired up defense held the Lions to only 13 points.
“At the times when we dominated,” Collins-Parker said, “we really showed we could win.”
The third game was also won by the Red. After going up 22-14, Cornell started to slip a little, and allowed Columbia to come back, scoring six points to the Red’s one. A kill from sophomore Erin McCarthy sealed the win, however, 25-20.
The two teams fought for each point in the fourth game, as the lead seesawed back and forth across the net. Columbia clawed its way to the top and seemed to get some breathing room after taking an 18-14 lead. But a timeout pep talk from Collins-Parker seemed to spark her players, and the Red roared back to life, scoring the next four points, bringing themselves to within two points at 21-23. Not to be outdone, Columbia went on a run as well, taking the match 22-25 and tying the series at 2-2.
The penultimate game was more of the same from the fourth game. Columbia took an early 4-1 lead, but Cornell answered back with four points in a row. The game stayed close until the Lions went on their run that gave them the 8-5 lead. The Lions kept the lead until a timely kill from freshman outside hitter Meagan Tatum put Cornell back on top 13-12. Columbia tied the score at 14 and then again at 15, Cornell finally put the match away with two quick points, winning 17-15.
The next afternoon, the Red faced a historically strong opponent in the Long Island Blackbirds.
The Red never really got going against the Blackbirds, as evidenced by the game scores, the closest of which was the first (22-25), followed by 19-25, 25-20, and 17-25.
The Red had some good moments, but never was able to take back the match when they needed to the most.
“We came out in the fourth game kind of flat,” Holland said. “We fought back at the end but we were not able to come back completely.”
Collins-Parker said that the Red allowed Long Island to build up insurmountable leads, setting itself up for failure.
“We let teams get too far ahead of us, and then we’re not able to catch up when the team’s really good,” she said.
Collins-Parker also gave Long Island’s more international style of play — the result of a roster stocked with players from overseas — was another reason the Red was overpowered in the end.
“Long Island has been a good team that has dominated us in the past with their international athletes,” she said. “They can play at a level that we need to learn to get up to.”
The international players are able to play a higher level for a longer period of time, Collins-Parker said, something the Red is as yet unable to do.
“The style of the play [internationally] is different,” she said. “In the USA, we’re so specialized. They are good at everything. They had a libero as their No.1 outside hitter. They have really good court sense.”
This isn’t to say the Long Island was unbeatable, but Cornell just wasn’t in a position to compete with them for the three games they needed to win.
“We needed to jump on them,” Collins-Parker said, “and we didn’t. I do feel like we could have beaten them.”