In what were nearly mirror image performances, Cornell defeated Brown on Friday night, 3-1, but was [img_assist|nid=33448|title=Sweet success|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]defeated by Yale the next night, 3-0. The Red is now 8-15 overall, 7-5 in the Ivy League and securely in fourth place in the league, behind Yale, Princeton and Penn, with two matches remaining in the season.
The Red beat the Bears (12-12, 4-8 Ivy) the first time it faced them, 3-1, but head coach Deitre Collins-Parker said the team was careful not to let its guard down against the always-dangerous club.
“They are always frustrating,” she said. “Frustrating because they are unorthodox.”
Collins-Parker said it’s hard to explain what it is that makes the Bears so unpredictable.
“They’re scrappy, they play good defense, but you don’t exactly know how they got the ball up,” she said. “They’re hard to read.”
The key for Cornell was to focus on playing its own game, and not getting caught up in what Brown was doing across the net.
“[We] had to not get sucked into their style of play,” Collins-Parker said.
When the Red found its rhythm, is played well, when it lost its focus and started reacting without thinking, it struggled.
“I think we were in and out of [our rhythm],” Collins-Parker said.
In the first set, both teams had trouble finding their respective rhythms, and the teams traded points until the score was tied at 22. A Brown error gave Cornell the opening it needed, however, and the away team secured a 25-22 win.
The second set was more of the same, but the Bears were able to maintain a slight lead throughout the set. Brown hit .314 during the set, its highest percentage of the match.
“We were off balance all of the time,” Collins-Parker said.
Senior captain Hilary Holland had nine digs in the set, a 25-22 loss.
Collins-Parker said that the team remained confident despite its loss in the second set, and was very aware of what it needed to do in order to come back and win the match.
“We can never become relaxed,” Tatum said. “We always need to play to win, throughout the entire match.”
The team’s renewed focus was apparent in the third set, when Cornell jumped out to a quick lead, never allowing Brown a real chance and winning the set 25-20, to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The final game proved anti-climactic, with the Red dominating the Bears across the board to win easily, 25-14. Cornell held its opponents to a -.062 hitting percentage and was aided by strong defense from junior libero Meghan Mushovic and junior middle blocker Juliana Rogers, who’s play was consistently strong throughout the weekend.
“I think that Juliana played really well this weekend. Period.” Collins-Parker said.
Cornell recorded 10 team blocks over the course of match, compared with five earned by Brown. As a team, the Red recorded 50 kills, led by Rogers’ 15, and 77 total blocks, led by Mushovic’s 18 and Holland’s 16. The team committed 21 errors. Brown finished with very similar numbers, earning 51 total kills, 70 digs and 21 errors.
The competition on Saturday was easier to analyze.
“Yale is good,” Collins-Parker said.
Yale is very good, actually. The Bulldogs (17-4, 11-1 Ivy) are first in the Ivy League, and their play on Saturday reflected this top-dog status.
“I really hope they win the Ivy League,” Mushovic said. “They’ve done a lot of good things this year. I think we played well. It’s disappointing that we lost, but [Yale’s] just a good team. We needed to adjust, but it didn’t work out.”
There’s also an intimidation factor, Collins-Parker said, particularly among the team’s younger members.
“I think we have a confidence issue with [Yale],” she said. “You have to believe you can beat them. I don’t think we played like we believed we can beat them.”
The boisterous home crowd that filled Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater for the Bulldog’s Senior Day festivities didn’t help settle the Red’s nerves any either.
“The seniors [for Yale] were really pumped,” said freshman outside hitter Meagan Tatum. “But personally, I’m used to the noise. It can be a disadvantage.”
The first set started out close, with both teams tied up at 12. But Yale found a way to break free and shook off Cornell for good, scoring 13 points in the time it took Cornell to earn three, and winning the set, 25-15. The Red’s team hitting percentage of .073 was its lowest of the match. Rogers continued to play well, however, with a .500 hitting percentage. Holland had 12 assists.
The next set saw Cornell stay close early, tying the set a 5. Then the Bulldogs exploded, going on an 8-0 run from which Cornell never recovered, losing again, 25-18.
With its back up against the wall, the Red rallied going into the third set, jumping out to a five point lead and forcing Yale head coach Erin Appleman to call a timeout with her team down, 14-9.
“Yale called a timeout,” Collins-Parker said. “I didn’t eve realize we were winning. I just knew we were playing well.”
Whatever Appleman said to her team in the huddle worked, however. And the Bulldogs scored six of the next seven points to tie the score at 15, and then claimed the lead at 17-16, a lead it would not give up. Yale took the match with a 25-19 set victory.
“It just seemed like they were able to readjust and we didn’t catch it as soon as we should have,” Tatum said.
Yale’s star junior hitter Cat Dailey, a recent transfer from Cal, was a huge playmaker for the Bulldogs, leading the charge in the third set. After the timeout, the set became “the Cat Dailey show,” Collins-Parker said. “We didn’t have an answer for her. She could put the ball wherever she wanted.” Dailey tallied 20 total kills without committing an error while hitting .526 percent.
Another factor for the Red was its own errors. Cornell had 16, compared with Yale’s six.
“Our errors came at really bad times,” Collins-Parker said. “And [Yale] would get on a run and we couldn’t stop them.”
Mushovic said that the team lost its focus at times, which is something you can’t do against a team of Yale’s caliber.
“We would do something really good and then make a silly mistake,” she said. “We needed to keep building the momentum.”
Holland’s 32 assists and 11 digs was a bright spot for the Red, as was the strong play or freshman defensive specialist Risa Ka’awa, who finished the match with 11 digs.
“It’s just a bummer for the seniors,” Collins-Parker said. “The seniors worked so hard, they just didn’t get enough help yet. We have potential — potential means we’re not there yet.”