With six games left in the season, Cornell volleyball has matched every loss with a win for an overall record of 9-9, already surpassing last year’s win total. The team has seen an upward trend in performance in the Ivy League as well, notching three wins, one more than last season’s total.
Head coach Trudy Vande Berg started her second season as the head coach of the team this fall. Working with one of the younger rosters in the league last year, Vande Berg was able to match the previous year’s record of 6-18. Having some experience under the belts of the players has definitely proved beneficial, as evidenced by the team’s record thus far. Junior Kit McCarty said she agreed with this idea.
“Our team is different this year because we are now coming together to be an experienced, hardworking and talented team that has the potential to be the best in the Ivy League,” McCarty said.
This year, the team matched last year’s start with a 2-0 record, something that was only achieved in 2007 before last year. The Red carried this momentum into the in-conference portion of its schedule, facing particularly competitive Ivy League foes. So far over 60 percent of league games have gone to a fifth set.
In fifth set losses against Ivy League teams, the team has averaged a point differential of just three points, a testament to how competitive and close the team has been against conference opponents this year.
One particular loss stung more than the others, against Dartmouth on Oct. 14, according to Vande Berg.
“Dartmouth was tough,” the head coach said. “We know that we didn’t execute when we needed to and just couldn’t get ourselves out of our slump.”
The win jolted the Red back to its winning ways and currently, the team is riding a two-game success streak, with the last two wins in league games against Harvard and then Columbia. This last win served as redemption after the team lost to Columbia 2-3 to kick off the Ivy season on Sept. 24.
“Beating Columbia on our home court after letting the match slip away the first time was a great feeling,” Vande Burg said.
Even setting rivalry aside, Harvard was a particularly sweet win. The team managed to overcome a 2-10 deficit in the fifth set to steal a win on the road.
“There was so much focus and determination to win from everyone on the team,” McCarty said. “We haven’t beat Harvard since 2011, so it was so much fun to beat them on their home court.”
Vande Berg added that it can be challenging to get over the hump in the season, but said the Harvard game was a good indicator that the team has successfully pushed through.
“I think we got that monkey off our back versus Harvard last weekend but we know that we have to keep working hard to get better every day,” she said.
As the season has matured, team chemistry has been another important aspect contributing to the team’s success, because the women have learned each other’s playing styles as well as personalities.
“Off the court we are the closest team I’ve ever been a part of,” McCarty said. “Even though we already spend a ton of time in the gym together, we typically spend most of our time outside of volleyball hanging out together.”
With three weekends left in the season, the team is perfectly even in all contests: home (4-4), away (3-3), and neutral (2-2). The Red is hoping to grab a win at Yale this Friday to extend the squad’s winning streak and move to above .500 for the season.
“Our team is finally in a rhythm and we will continue to get better and better,” McCarty said.
The rest of the games left in the season are all against Ivy opponents, meaning that every game from here on out counts. Just two of those games will be played in front of the Red’s supportive home crowd, so the team will need to rely on each other in order to get things done on the road.
Vande Berg was clear about what the goal is for the remainder of the season: make sure the number of wins is greater than the number of losses.
Asked which game will be the most important in the coming weeks, Vande Berg simply said the next one on the schedule, Yale.
“Every match in the Ivy League is a battle,” Vande Berg said. “Yale at their place is next, that’s the one we are focused on.”
Cornell plays the Bulldogs and Brown this weekend, before returning home to take on Harvard and Dartmouth at home. The season closes with two away games against Princeton and Penn.