Cornell and Valparaiso had onlookers on the edge of their seats with five set-points in their first set. Valparaiso ultimately won the set 32-30.

Michael Suguitan | Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell and Valparaiso had onlookers on the edge of their seats with five set-points in their first set. Valparaiso ultimately won the set 32-30.

September 10, 2017

Cornell Invitational Brings Volleyball Back to .500

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After a shaky performance in last weekend’s season opening tournament and an injury to junior captain Carla Sganderlla, the Cornell women’s volleyball team (3-3) looked to bounce back during this weekend’s Cornell Invitational.

While the Red went 1-2 in last weekend’s Tropical Smoothie Invitational, head coach Trudy Vande Berg believed that the team would fare better as the season progressed after nerves subsided.

“Now that the team is past the first weekend, [the team was] able to relax a little bit,” Vande Berg said. “After last weekend, we knew what we needed to work on and we really executed and fixed things that we didn’t do so well.”

Heading into the Cornell Invitational with a 1-2 overall record, the Red looked to even out its record in its first match against Binghamton (3-7) — and it did just that. A career-best 31 digs from senior captain Kiley McPeek, along with a combined 30 kills from senior captains Kit McCarty and Emily Wemhoff helped push the team to its first win of the invitational. McPeek attributed a large portion of win to the positive atmosphere that the fans provided.

“[Playing at home] is definitely different,” McPeek said. “We still try [to] keep calm and steady, but it’s nice to have all of the fans behind you and cheering for you and not … heckling you.”

The Red headed into the tournament’s second day looking at a doubleheader against St. Johns and Valparaiso. Hoping to build on its momentum, the Red faced off against St. John’s (7-3) first. Sophomore Samanta Arenas, filling in for Sganderlla, had notable game with 14 kills, 11 digs and three blocks, while junior Lauren Donnelly and senior Chelsea Sincox combined for 37 assists to fuel the offense. The Red ultimately pulled off the victory against the Red Storm in three tight sets, 27-25, 25-23 and 25-22.

“With [Sganderlla’s] injury, we didn’t know what to expect with the chemistry on the court,” Vande Berg said. “[Arenas] gelled very quickly and did an incredible job.”

The win against St. John’s proved to be the highlight of the weekend for coach Vande Berg. The Red came together and pulled off the tough win

“Beating St. John’s was incredible for us,” Vande Berg said. “We were very steady and very disciplined the entire match, staying very calm. Everyone did what they need to do to play well, we weren’t doing anything outside of our comfort zone. We were doing what our role was and it was really good to see.”

Heading into the final match of the Cornell Invitational looking to end the tournament with a perfect record and win its first Big Red Invitational title since 2005, the Red headed into its match with Valparaiso with a sense of the stakes.

As the match got underway, a five-point lead by the Red was erased as it had to fight off five set points. The match had fans on the edge of their seats, but ultimately Valparaiso came back to stun Cornell with a 32-30 win in the first set.

The Red fell 0-2 after losing a less contested second set. And while Cornell put on a show in the third set with a 25-21 win, Valparaiso easily took the fourth 17-25 to win the match.

Despite the disappointing end to the tournament, two members of the Red were acknowledged for their outstanding performances. McPeek, who recorded a match high 29 digs against Vaparaiso, and Wemhoff, who recorded 20 kills on the night, were both named to the all-tournament team.

In its match against Valparaiso, the Red gave up some key plays during crucial moments. Looking ahead, the team will work on keeping the momentum in its side of the court.

“There were times when we would go on a run and have four or five points … then give them a couple of easy points and … swing the momentum back into the other team’s favor,” Vande Berg said. “I want to make sure that in the next week that we are really focusing on keeping that sense of urgency even when we have a lead.”

The Red will next see action during Sept 15. and Sept. 16’s Colgate Invitational. Cornell will take on La Salle, Stony Brook and Colgate over a two-day span.