October 24, 2008

Volleyball Plays Ivy Foes at Home

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Being a “rebuilding team” has its ups and downs. On the downside, you’re probably not going to have a record-breaking season if you are still trying to get settled. The upside, though, is that after that first, really tough year, you might just come out and surprise everyone — including yourself. The volleyball team struggled last season and during this year’s preseason as well. But tonight, the Red has a chance to put the past behind it as it takes on Yale, at home, for sole possession of first place in the Ivy League, followed by a match tomorrow afternoon against Brown.
The Red has kept its cool this week, according to senior captain Hilary Holland.
“I don’t think we’re feeling any more pressure than usual,” she said. “We can win, and we want to win. But there’s no outside pressure.”
Before the Red (6-10, 5-1 Ivy) moves on to Brown (10-8, 2-4 Ivy), the home team will host heated conference rival Bulldogs (11-4, 5-1) — a team which has a contentious past with the Red. Currently, Cornell holds the series record lead, but only by one match — 25-24. The last time the two met was last November, when Cornell pulled out a tight, 3-2 victory. Suffice it to say, everyone is expecting a great matchup.
Yale is coming off of a 3-2 loss to Penn, a team the Red beat 3-1 at home on Oct. 10. Cornell on the other hand will be hoping to capitalize on the momentum is gained after its tough victories last weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth.
“I think it was good for us to see Penn beat [Yale],” Holland said. “Does that mean it’s going to be easy? No.”[img_assist|nid=32950|title=Hands in the air|desc=Seniors Hilary Holland (2) and Emily Borman (15) block a shot against Syracuse on Sept. 24.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Senior middle blocker Emily Borman was named the Ivy League Player of the Week on Tuesday for her part in the Red’s weekend sweep. Against the Ivy teams, the starter racked up 13 kills in each math, with an average hitting percentage of .466 for the week. She also added a team-leading seven blocks against the Green.
The team watched film about Yale this past week and has been working on strategies for stopping the Bulldogs’ potent offense — particularly its hitters, led by Alexis Crusey, who currently has a .264 hitting percentage, as well as an average of nearly four kills per set.
“[We’ve] been trying to see what new stuff we can learn,” Holland said. “Obviously, we have to cut out our errors. I feel like we need to play a clean game to win.”
The Red seems confident it can win on Friday, especially with the added benefit of a fired up home crowd at its back.
“Personally, in my career, we’ve never lost to Yale at home,” Holland said. “It’s definitely an advantage. We are looking forward to it.”
On the other hand, Holland said that teams in the Ancient Eight seem to get particularly fired up when faced with the prospect of a match against the Red.
“I don’t think that any team in the Ivy really wants us to play well,” she said, adding that the team’s three-year run before last year as Ivy champions has something to do with the competitive spirit the Red seems to inspire in opponents.
“Teams always get fired up when they play us,” she said. “That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. There’s no one who is going to jut let us win.”
The Red is focusing on one match at a time for the weekend, and will focus on Brown only after they finish with Yale. On Saturday morning, Holland said the team will meet to discuss strategy for the Brown match.
“It’s too hard to focus on two teams at once,” she said.
Brown has played a lot better than its Ivy record might indicate, Holland said. The match will have an added personal touch for upperclassmen still smarting from the Red’s two losses to the Bears last season. Losses, Holland said, the team never should have accrued.
“[The losses] were tough,” Holland said. “We did not expect to lose to them. From a returners stand point, this is really a chance for redemption.”