After a disappointing five set loss in its Ivy League opener to Columbia, Cornell was given the chance to redeem itself against the Lions this past Sunday. And the team earned its redemption, with a commanding 3-1 victory propelling the Red to start the second half of league play with a win.
“[The win] feels amazing,” said senior captain Macey Wilson. “I think we can still push ourselves to win a game in 3 [sets], but we’re taking a step in the right direction, going from winning our [recent] five set match against Harvard to beating Columbia in four. It’s just a great start to our second half].”
As a team which is traditionally strong in blocking and digging, Columbia displayed its defensive prowess early on. The game’s first play set the tone for the rest of the game with several sensational digs and almost 20 touches before Columbia registered the first point of the game.
The rest of the set featured notably long rallies, as the Red struggled to find gaps in the Columbia defense. However, the team became more visibly comfortable as the set progressed, connecting on more spikes and pulling away to win the set 25-18.
“We were at first just being careful in playing our game,” said head coach Trudy Vande Berg. “As soon as we tightened it up, took care of that first contact, then in our offense we could set to whoever we wanted to and we could start wheeling away so they couldn’t play defense on us.”
The Red continued to look comfortable in its second set 25-21 win. However, in the third set, Cornell seemed to falter, as poor late game execution and service errors led to a 29-27 loss.
“In the third set, especially towards the end, we didn’t really execute on the little stuff” Vande Berg said. “So stuff like passing a free ball, hitter zones, serving, or blocking correctly. We just lost our focus and discipline and just got caught up in the frantic of the game instead of calming down and just getting back to what we’re good at.”
Nevertheless, Cornell’s momentary lapse in focus would be short lived. The Red completely dominated the fourth set to cruise to a 25-15 win, capping a 3-1 victory over its New York City rival.
“In the fourth set, we realized that no team is going to drop a set just because they don’t feel like playing, so we had to show up,” said sophomore Carla Sganderlla. “We knew that skillswise we were better, so I feel that just having the confidence that we had in the first and second sets led us to the win.”
Performances by seniors Alyssa Phelps and Wilson brought some notable milestones in their respective careers. Phelps’s 41 assist game helped her spring into second place on Cornell’s all-time list, moving past Vanessa Richlin ’00. With 2,940 career assists, Phelps now only trails Jen Strazza ’92, who tallies 3,572 career assists.
Along with Phelps, Wilson’s nine blocks helped her move up to sixth place in the all-time list with 337 total career blocks.
Aside from the victory itself, winning in four sets will be a refreshing change for the team. The Red has experienced its share of close games this season, with six of their past eight games played to five sets. The team has made it a focus to close matches earlier, and there will be a continued focus on building mental toughness for future games.
“Definitely showing that we don’t have to go to five sets to win is a step towards working on our mental toughness,” Sganderlla said. “Doing those drills where you put yourselves in the situation to execute and showing mental toughness really showed up and helped us out today.”
Cornell will hope to continue their recent success when it travels to it next game against Yale on Friday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.