Volleyball looked prime to continue building on last year’s third place conference finish in this weekend’s home opener — winning against the University of Buffalo and Siena College, before finally falling to St. John’s University.
The Red (2-1, 0-0 Ivy) handed the Bulls (5-1, 0-0 MAC) its first loss of the season in a close match that spanned five games on Friday night. Cornell fell to Buffalo, 19-25, in the first game, but came back to win the next two games, 25-21 and 25-20 respectively. While Buffalo won the fourth game, 20-25, to force another game, Cornell stayed calm under pressure to claim the fifth game, 15-13, and clinch the match.
Highlights from the match included 22 kills from senior captain Carla Sganderlla, who made her triumphant return to the court after a season-ending ACL injury last year. Juniors Samanta Arenas and Jada Stackhouse also had 14 and 10 kills, respectively, while junior Lily Barber put up 26 digs.
The hosts were back in action on Saturday morning as they faced the Siena Saints (0-5, 0-0 MAAC) and bested them in five games. After handily defeating the Saints 25-12 and 25-19 in the first two games, the Red used the opportunity to utilize its deep bench. Although the Red dropped the next two games 18-25 and 23-25, it maintained its composure to rock the Saints 15-8 in the last game to come away with the win.
“We have so much depth in each position,” Sganderlla said. “If we ever need to make any subs we can without a problem. It was really nice to see the team all come together. Regardless if we had different players coming in, we still maintained our focus.”
Freshman Avery Hanan’s 15 kills and junior Sophia Beaudoin’s 11 played a large part in the Red’s defeat of the Saints. Notably, sophomore setter Zoe Chamness and junior setter Katie Randolph both had double-doubles — with Chamness tallying 30 assists and 10 digs, and Randolph recording 18 assists and 10 digs.
The Red returned to Newman Arena for the final match of the tournament, where it took on reigning champions, the St. John’s Red Storm (6-1, 0-0 Big East). Unfortunately, the Red Storm proved too much for Cornell to handle as the Red succumbed in three consecutive games. Despite failing to eke out a win in its second match, the Red still put up a valiant fight in keeping each game close (20-25, 21-25, 24-26).
While the Red, Buffalo, and St. John’s each ended the weekend with a record of 2-1, St. John’s sweep of Cornell meant the Red Storm finished the tournament with the highest set winning percentage (.727), and with it, its second consecutive Big Red Invitational title.
Both Barber and Sganderlla were awarded all-tournament team honors for their part in the Red’s pair of weekend victories.
“It being our first weekend, it was really nice to get the jitters out and try new lineups and new things to see how it all works out,” Phelps said.
As one of the largest teams in D1 volleyball, with 22 players, Cornell has adopted an “as one” mentality this season as it hopes to continue building momentum.
“Volleyball is a game of errors,” Sganderlla said. “You’re going to have ups and downs, so the ‘as one’ mentality will definitely help us this season.”
The Red will hit the road as it heads to Houston, Texas to compete in the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup this weekend.