Cornell volleyball has had a clear and distinct motto all season: Get 1 percent better every day.
This motto has been engrained into the team’s mindset and has inspired them look for ways to improve each time their alarm goes off in the morning, both individually and collectively. They even sport T-shirts with the motto to inspire them on and off the court.
“I know mathematically it doesn’t really work after 100 days,” joked sophomore Jada Stackhouse, “but the main point is to work hard to get just a little bit better every single day. Normally people focus on the end goal but not how to get there. By slowly getting better each and every day, we’ll reach whatever personal goals we have.”
Nearly three quarters of the way through the 2017 season, the Red is 8-8 and sits in the middle of the pack in the Ivy League standings with its remaining seven games against Ivy opponents. Going into the final stretch, four of the Red’s seven games will be played at home, which is good news for a team that holds a 5-1 home record and a 1-5 road record.
Comparing Cornel’s overall performance against its opponents thus far, it leads in kills (848 to 779), total attacks (2512 to 2311), kills per set (13.9 to 12.8), assists (802 to 737) and digs (1071 to 1070).
The defense and offense have been evenly balanced all season but have allowed many errors that they know could be worked on for the second half. Stackhouse understands how errors play a role in losing matches, and how the team looks to strengthen its game.
“We plan on limiting our errors so that we force other teams to earn points instead of just giving them free points,” Stackhouse said.
Growth has been essential for the Red this season, especially for the younger players who were asked to step up and fill roles they weren’t expected to fill so early on. This team has come together to support one another on and off the court, even if that means taking a trip to Purity for some late-night ice cream.
“Our team is really focusing on taking every experience we have and learning from them to keep growing and getting better every day,” said senior Kiley McPeek. “It doesn’t have to happen all at once, but little by little we get better and better.”
Although there have been several positives throughout the season, injuries and consistent struggles on the road have cast a bit of a dark cloud. Sophomore Samanta Arenas believes that the stresses the team has endured in the beginning of the season have prepared them mentally for the road ahead.
“The beginning of the season brought on a lot of injuries that might have left us feeling frantic as we were adjusting to the circumstances,” she said. “We’ve definitely done a lot better in remaining composed and doing what we need to execute our game plans, which I think has instilled confidence and happiness in our girls.”
The goal for the upcoming games, and the quest to have a winning season, has not changed.
The team wants to win, and head coach Trudy Vande Berg believes that in order to win matches, the team needs to be in the right mindset.
“[Our goal is] to play focused, disciplined and aggressive volleyball,” she said. “Being careful has never won a match.”
With this goal in mind, Cornell is confident knowing it has ground to make up in the final Ivy League push. Using the mindset of getting 1 percent better every day, the Red has proven to be a strong force in the Ivy League, having just beaten a then-undefeated Princeton team and a strong Penn squad in the same weekend. This momentum strengthens the team’s confidence as the second half rolls through.
“For the second round of Ivies, we have to continuing playing the way we did this past weekend in order to win the rest of our games,” said junior Carla Sganderlla. “If we do that then we have a really strong chance of being first in the Ivy League.”
Although Cornell looks to win its first Ivy League title since 2006, there are still struggles that need to be addressed to make that a real possibility. Arenas pointed to shoring up the millisecond decisions that come with any time a ball is in play.
“We can expect to work on skills to improve how we make decisions in a play,” Arenas said. “Because we’ve been through all of the Ivy teams already, and now that they know our team and tendencies, it will be extremely important to improve our smart decisions and to work on what we can do to keep the other teams off their game.”
With the motto that they have engrained in their hearts to the bonding sessions off the court, this edition of Cornell volleyball has made great leaps already this season. All that’s left is the elusive crown to break a decade-plus long curse.