November 7, 2008

Despite Hard Losses, Red Refuses to Lose Confidence

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It’s hard to imagine that the volleyball team is in good spirits — not only did the Red drop two matches last weekend to fall to No. 4 in the Ivy standings, they’re also heading right back on the road this weekend to face Brown today and first-place Yale tomorrow. But head coach Deitre Collins-Parker and the rest of the team was so buoyed by their play in the five-set loss to Penn on Saturday that the confidence is flowing — even as they’re about to take on a Bulldog squad that handed the Red a resounding 25-16, 25-12, 25-13 defeat just two weeks ago.
“If we play that same way against [Brown and Yale] we can win both our matches this weekend,” said senior setter and captain Hilary Holland. “We’re optimistic. Of course we’re disappointed that we didn’t pull it out last week but we’re just using it as a learning experience.”
The main problem two weeks ago was blocking, a problem the team has since remedied, according to Collins-Parker.
“We need to do a better job of blocking,” she said. “That whole weekend was a really bad blocking weekend for us. We’ve been working on a lot on just doing that better, that one skill.”
With the blockers overpowered, the rest of the Red defense struggled to come up with the digs and the team’s fundamentals broke down quickly.
“We have to start the game better than we started last time,” Holland said. “We already played them before so we know what they’re capable of. I think we’ll be better prepared this time.”
Exactly what Yale (15-4, 9-1 Ivy) is capable of doing is a well-balanced attack that was firing on all cylinders against the Red (7-13, 6-4 Ivy) last time. While no Bulldogs had double-digit kills, six players had five or more kills and the team sported a solid .305 hitting percentage while holding the Red to a meager .088 percentage.
“We just didn’t play good volleyball,” Collins-Parker said. “We weren’t prepared to approach that match for the No. 1; it was playing for first place and we kind of just choked.”
The Bulldogs haven’t slowed down since the match in Ithaca, which boosted Yale to the top spot in the Ivy League. They’re on a four-match win streak and their last loss was a close five-set defeat to Penn — the only blemish on their Ancient Eight record so far this season.
While Yale has been dominant in and out of conference this season, Brown (11-11, 3-7 Ivy), is not as daunting of a threat to the Red. The Bears, like the Red, are coming off a two-loss weekend but do have the advantage of returning to a friendly home crowd.
“They did play well last time against us and they play well at home. If we block like we blocked against Penn last weekend, we’ll have a good shot at beating them,” Holland said.
The Bears offense is led by Megan Toman and Lyndse Yess, with 3.1 and 3.09 kills per set, respectively. Setter Natalie Meyers has racked up 10.05 helpers per set and leads the team with a .356 hitting percentage, but only 57 kills for the season.
With just four Ivy games remaining on the season, Cornell has a steep uphill climb if it wants to catch Yale atop the Ancient Eight standings. The Red essentially has to win out and hope that Yale loses some of its momentum and falls in at least three of its next four matches.
“The wins and losses, sometimes you have to let those take care of themselves,” Collins-Parker said. “But playing well, and knowing that we’re capable of playing that well, I think that’s really good for us.”