September 8, 2011

VOLLEYBALL | New Opponents Mark Split Weekend

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With one win and three loses during the Cornell Invitational, the volleyball team got off to a shaky start this season. Although last weekend’s games were played on the Red’s home court, the teams on the other side of the net were ones it had never played before. Still, the squad seems confident that things will improve at the upcoming Virginia Commonwealth tournament. The Red is scheduled to face VCU (2-5), George Washington (6-0) and North Carolina A&T State (0-6) this weekend.

George Washington’s undefeated record indicates that the team, which has not faced Cornell since 1992, could be a particularly challenging opponent. Yet the team’s outlook remains positive. After all, this is only preseason. Everything is just getting started.

“Preseason is more about focusing on us than about focusing on the other team,” said senior tri-captain Madeleine Przybyl.

So far the issues seem to be purely technical, rather than miscommunication between the team members. According to head coach Sarah Bernson, the speed with which the team reacts and moves to balls needs improvement. The Red also needs to find better base positions, she added.

Some of Cornell’s statistics have also diminished with each game, while its opponent’s numbers on the court show an upward trend. The Red’s hitting and side-out percentages are of particular concern, Bernson noted.

“We could be playing better in terms of winning,” she said. “We should have some more confidence because we’ve seen ourselves and felt ourselves playing at a high level at times.”

However, Bernson sees the team’s lack of confidence not as a weakness, but rather as a chance for improvement.

“This is a good opportunity for our senior leadership to continue to push the team and remind them of our goals,” she explained.

The beginning of the 2010 volleyball season showed a similarly weak start with the Red also losing three games in a row. Ultimately the squad had a rough year, falling to Yale in the season finale for a 2-12 Ivy League record and 4-20 overall. However, with only four newcomers this season the team is already displaying more unity than it has in years, according to senior tri-captain Meagan Tatum.

“We’ve never had this many returners before,” she said. “It’s easier for a group of four to fit in than a group of six or seven … [and] they’re fitting in great.”

“We have more cohesiveness than we’ve ever had since we’ve been on this team,” Przybyl added.

Overall, the team is still testing the waters and trying to find its groove as the season begins. According to Bernson, upcoming opponents George Washington and North Carolina A&T State will provide the Red with a test similar to the one it just faced at the Cornell Invitational. The team will need to perfect its skill in order to succeed, but it is not too concerned about winning and losing just yet.

“These tournaments are all about finding our tempo and style of play and finding a lineup that can go into the Ivies strong and competitive,” Przybyl said.

Original Author: Ariel Cooper