After a resounding win over Columbia to open Ivy League play, Cornell volleyball hoped to continue its hot streak this weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard. Both games in New England did not go as planned, however, with a pair of 3-1 losses on Friday and Saturday night.
The Red began both matches strong, winning the second set against Harvard, 25-21. and the first set against Dartmouth, 27-25, before taking a step back in the final few sets both nights.
Last year, the Red swept Dartmouth home and away, and went 1-1 with Harvard in Ithaca and in Cambridge. Knowing it had the ability to win did help at the get-go but faltered as the matches progressed.
“I felt that our team went into those matches very confident that we would win, which did help us gain a lead at certain points,” said sophomore Samanta Arenas. “However, I don’t think we fought as hard to keep that lead as we would have if we were behind in points.”
Head coach Trudy Vande Berg felt her team may have taken its foot off the gas.
“We let up on both teams at the wrong times and let them get into a rhythm,” she said. “We made unforced errors and put the pressure on ourselves to score.”
Although the Red was struggling with unforced errors, the team responded well to particular tactics by the opposing teams.
“Harvard’s middles played well against us, and their outsides were swinging aggressively because they were in system much of the time … [but] both of our middles [Stackhouse and Phelps] did some great things for us this weekend and did as much as they could to push our team to get into a better flow,” Vande Berg said.
Sophomore Jada Stackhouse had five blocks against both Harvard and Dartmouth, and classmate Jenna Phelps had eight against Harvard and two against Dartmouth, a greater average than the formidable Harvard middle blockers.
Arenas also gave credit to sophomore defensive specialist Lily Barber who “did a great job at remaining composed and focusing on the things that she could control in the game against Dartmouth,” Arenas said.
While the Red lost both matches, the team as a whole fought hard throughout each. In the first set against Dartmouth, Cornell trailed 17-10 before coming back to eek out a 27-25 win.
“Even in a game where we were losing by more than six points at one time, there was a sense of urgency within us that drove us to fight for each point,” Arenas said.
Both Arenas and Vande Berg agreed in putting the team’s two losses more on the team — and its own unforced errors — than to extraordinary play by either of the other teams.
“We need to work a ton on minimizing our unforced errors,” Vande Berg said. “We give other teams way too many points, and we did that this past weekend. It’s all a learning process, and we will be better next time we see them.”
Arenas hopes to learn from these losses to better prepare for the rematch with both teams.
“We’ll face them again with more passion and fury because we know how it feels to lose without them having done anything fancy or extraordinary,” she said. “Both losses were due to our own inconsistencies and errors rather than our opponents beating us by skill.”
“I don’t feel that Harvard or Dartmouth did much to push us to win, but rather, we did not execute the things we were supposed to be doing in order to beat them,” she added.
The Red will face each of these teams again at the end of October at home, but takes the road first for a Friday night matchup at Brown.