By OLIVIA MATTYASOVSZKY
The Cornell volleyball team hosted two big Ivy League opponents this weekend. The squad played the No. 1 ranked Dartmouth Big Green on Friday for the annual Dig Pink fundraiser benefiting breast cancer and the No. 3 Harvard Crimson on Saturday.
Coming into the weekend, Dartmouth was on a three-game winning streak and thus had a lot of momentum. The Green’s record stood even at 7-7, but within the conference, the team had only dropped one game, losing 3-0 to the Penn Quakers earlier this month.
Despite its momentum, the Green dropped the first set to Cornell on Friday, losing 25-22. However, Dartmouth pulled ahead in hitting percentage with 15 conversions on 37 attempts, while Cornell converted on only 13 of 37 attempts in that first set. A clutch service ace by freshman Carla Sganderlla and a kill by Maddy Sroufe to win the set was able to secure the win for the Red nonetheless. The standout of the game was Sganderlla, who had a team high of 11 kills, followed by junior Macey Wilson with 10 and sophomore Maddy Sroufe with eight.
In the next set, the Green regained its momentum. A blistering front line of Emily Astarita, Morgan Dressel and Emily Patrick led the Dartmouth in kills and with that push, the team went on to win the next two sets, 25-16 and 25-20, taking the match 3-1.
Despite the loss, the team-wide support made the difference for the freshmen class.
“Ivy League play is different from what the freshmen are used to, but I feel that we have figured out what we need to compete at this level,” Sganderlla said. “The returners to the team have also helped us out tremendously and that has made the transition easier.”
Junior Alyssa Phelps explained that the team’s loss came from being one step behind the Green.
“On Friday we started off strong and a lot of energy but throughout the match Dartmouth continued to make adjustments and we were just one step behind,” she said.
On Saturday, the Harvard Crimson came to Newman for what Cornell hoped would be the end of a long losing streak. It looked good in the first two sets, with Cornell’s front line keeping up the pressure on the Crimson’s defense.
The first set went to the Red, 25-22, and the second in even more impressive fashion with a win of 25-14. Blocking belonged to freshman Alex Basler, who took up important space on the net and allowed defensive specialists Natalie Danenhauer and Chelsea Sincox to finish the match with 19 and 14 digs, respectively.
The tide turned though when the Crimson pulled ahead in the third set, 22-18. Despite an ace from the continually impressive Sroufe, the visitors closed the deal on a hit from Corinne Bain. Cornell just needed one more set to clinch its first win in weeks. The Red secured a comfortable cushion late in the fourth at 19-15, but the Crimson clawed its way back and ended the set, 26-24.
In the last set, despite leading 12-11, Cornell could not contain a powerful Harvard offense and the visitors went on a scoring streak to end the set, 15-13. However, Sganderlla sees the close matchups as a positive.
“We had the momentum throughout the start of both of those matches, but we weren’t able to close out,” she said. “We are a young team, but we are improving with each match. Despite the outcome, we played the best we’ve ever played so that’s a huge positive to take away. … We know that we can compete with any team in the Ivy League [and] what every team is capable of, so we are ready to start the second round of Ivies.”
Upperclassman and standout middle hitter Macey Wilson agrees, perennially looking forwards and up.
“This weekend was really tough because we know we have the talent and ability to beat these teams, but for some reason, we just haven’t been able to push through and finish,” she said. “We are still so motivated and ready for this upcoming weekend because we know we are so close to doing amazing things.”
Phelps said she feels that the chemistry on display this weekend shows promise for the games to come.
“We finally clicked as a team [this weekend],” she said. “We had the opportunity to win every single set and we believed that we could. Although we were unable to pull out the win, we learned a lot about how to play as a team. … We’re gaining confidence as a unit and I know we are completely capable of beating any team in the Ivy League.”