Cornell was able to amass its most wins in a decade this past weekend, as the team split its final two games of the season against Princeton and Penn.
“It was a great weekend for Cornell volleyball and a great one to end on,” said senior co-captain Alyssa Phelps. “We played one our best matches of the year Friday against Princeton and finished with a win against Penn to have one of the best records for Cornell in ten years. We finished with a .500 record, but given the last couple of years I am so proud and excited for this team.”
After being swept by Princeton (19-4, 13-1 Ivy League) earlier this season, the Red (12-12, 6-8 Ivy League) hoped to record a win this weekend against the Ivy League’s top seeded team. The opening sets certainly hinted that this match would not be another reproduction of the Red’s prior three set loss — each of the first four sets were a back and forth affair, with the second and third sets decided by a total margin of four points. After pushing Princeton to a fifth set, Cornell seemed to have a great opportunity to win as they led 9-5 in the decisive set. However, a timeout and subsequent 10-1 run by Princeton would seal their victory as well as the Ivy League title.
“[Despite the loss], it just shows how much we’ve improved over the season and how good this team can be,” Phelps said. “It gets me really excited to think about the future of this program because there isn’t one team that we can’t beat and we’re finally starting to believe that.”
While the impressive five set effort against Princeton starkly contrasted Cornell’s earlier game against the Ivy League champions, its following match against Penn (10-16, 5-9 Ivy League) could not have been more different. In its previous matchup against Penn, Cornell recorded a win after a tightly contested five set match; in its rematch this past Saturday, Cornell followed an eerily similar narrative.
Once again, the Red played a close game where three of the five sets had a margin of victory of four points or less. In the decisive fifth set, players found themselves trailing three times by at least two points. However, Phelps and senior Macey Wilson, both playing in their final career games, would prove critical in the waning moments of the match as they helped overcome the deficit. As the Red trailed 10-8 late in the fifth set, the two would score five of the team’s final seven points, including two consecutive service aces from Phelps and a block from Wilson, to help Cornell win their last game of the season. Notably, in the last career play of the two seniors, Phelps set up a kill for Wilson to win the match.
“We know that Penn digs a lot of balls and will send the ball back, so we knew we had to stay disciplined,” said sophomore Carla Sganderlla. “Most importantly, we had fun. It was our last game of the season and we wanted to win for the seniors especially after the loss at Princeton.”
Phelps finished the Penn match with a double-double of 38 assists and 19 digs, and Wilson finished with team-high nine kills and an impressive .500 hitting percentage. In addition, junior Kiley McPeek recorded an impressive match-high 25 digs while freshman Jenna Phelps posted seven blocks.
“It was a great weekend for Cornell volleyball and a great one to end on,” Phelps said.
With the performances from these final games, Phelps and Wilson have certainly made their mark in Cornell record books. Phelps concludes her Cornell career ranked second all-time in assists (3,181), 19th in Big Red history in digs (718), and 19th block assists (160). Wilson concludes her Cornell career ranked third in block assists (309), fifth in total blocks (359), fifth in hitting percentage (.286), 12th in solo blocks (50), and 15th in kills (629).
“[We] finished with a win against Penn to have one of the best records for Cornell in ten years,” Phelps said. “Given the last couple of years I am so proud and excited for this team. We are a team in every sense of the word – on and off the court – and I truly believe this program is headed in the right direction. Macey and I are so proud to have been a changing force.”