September 20, 2010

Volleyball Downs UConn in Five Sets, But Falters Against Akron, Colgate

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Achieving mixed results in its last string of games leading up to Ivy League play, the volleyball team defeated UConn in a close, five-set match before falling to Akron and Colgate during Day 2 of the Colgate Invitational.

Cornell overpowered the UConn (2-8) lineup to start the weekend with a 3-2 win.

“We were communicating very well. Before the game we were pumped to play,” said freshman Janel Forte.

UConn led at the start, taking the first set, 26-24, before the Red came back to win the second and third sets, 25-21, 25-19. Cornell dropped the fourth, 19-25, before coming back to take the match-winning fifth set, 17-15.

Forte, along with juniors Kelly Hansen and Madeleine Przybyl, all delivered double-digit kills during the match, with 12, 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Junior setter Jordan Reeder posted 36 assists during the match.

“We played our game and controlled our game, and, in doing that, we controlled how they were playing as well,” Przybyl said.

While UConn took an early lead in the fifth set, Cornell kept its energy level high to close the match up with three consecutive kills.

“It’s definitely exciting. You work for that moment that really counts. Coming down to that last game, it’s all about who has the most momentum and the most heart, because it’s a shorter game,” Przybyl said.

When the Red faced off against Akron (8-4), Cornell pulled off some competitive volleys but was ultimately trumped by Akron’s strong defensive skills in the 3-0 match.

Akron outplayed Cornell in terms of kills, 49-35, service aces, 6-3, and blocks, 7-4, to take the win. The Zips countered the Red’s offensive attempts and won in straight sets, 27-25, 25-15 and 25-22.

“They are the best defensive team we have played. We were taking some solid swings and they were making some great defensive plays,” said head coach Sarah Bernson.

Cornell ended the game with more digs (44-36) than the Zips, with 18 digs coming from junior Risa Ka’awa. Leading the Red’s offense, sophomore Deveney Pula contributed nine kills, and Reeder provided 21 assists.

“We had some long rallies where the ball was going over the net four or five times, and it was excellent play in that you really had to find a way to score. That was the first time we had that level of adaptation in regard to how to finish a play, so that was a good challenge for us,” Bernson said.

Cornell had hoped to come out stronger in this match against Akron to display the team’s ability to start the two-match day on a winning note.

“We still could have played better, and we haven’t played great on our morning matches yet, so that’s disappointing that we didn’t show that this season, that we could play well at the first match of a tournament on a double-day. But they were a solid opponent, that was a good test for us,” Bernson said.

In its last match of the Invitational, Cornell fell, 3-2, to Colgate (7-6) after winning the first two sets of the match. The match highlighted the fact that the Red needs to work more on finishing.

“We came out on fire and were really dominating the first two sets and then we eased up before the third set. So, Colgate pressured us back and, unfortunately, with us being a young team, we didn’t quite have the maturity to maintain that emotional level and pressure back to the opponent,” Bernson said.

At the start of the match, the Red narrowly edged out the Raiders, 25-20, 25-21, but then lost ground in the following sets, 12-25, 21-25, 15-9.

“It just shows the importance of finishing when we have the opportunity and finding consistency within a match and within a weekend,” Przybyl said. “When we are given that chance to win a game in three, we need to take it.”

“When we were up, we just needed to keep being verbal about being ahead and our scores, and when we were down we needed to act like we were up. We needed to keep our energy levels up,” Forte said.

This weekend, Cornell will take on its first Ivy League competitor, Columbia. With more experience behind it after these past few weeks of non-conference play, the Red feels it is more prepared than ever.

“Each match has posed a new challenge for us, so it’s given us experience –– in how to play in a five-set match, how to handle when we’re up two sets, how to handle when we’re down a set to start; we now have these experiences under our belt,” Bernson said. “If we face those situations during Ivy League play we’ll be more prepared to handle it.”

Original Author: Laura Dwulet