Cornell volleyball is off to its best start in Ivy League play in 10 years and will look to keep up its winning ways at home against Brown on Friday night.
Coming off of an 8-6 conference record and a tie for third in the Ivy League in 2017, the Red (8-5, 3-0 Ivy League) is on the right track to being a strong contender for the league title this season. The team started off with three non-conference tournaments, going a combined 5-5. Since then, the Red have burst into Ivy League play with three straight wins over Columbia, Harvard and Dartmouth.
With all that said, the early success isn’t getting in the team’s head.
“It means a lot that we’re not even paying attention to that,” said head coach Trudy Vande Berg. “Our expectations are very high this year, so 3-0 is where we expected to be at this point.”
Vande Berg attributed part of the team’s early-season success to the rigor of their non-conference schedule, which included road trips to Houston and Valparaiso, Indiana.
“It helped tremendously. I purposely scheduled stressful road trips,” she said. “When we’re in the middle of October, we got a ton of prelims going on and classes are really amping up, so we’ve already been tested with the stress of things.”
The Red is coming off of an especially dominant weekend in which it defeated Harvard on Friday and Dartmouth on Saturday. The Red only dropped one set in the two matches and held both the Crimson and the Green to less than a .100 hitting percentage. Defensive success has been a hallmark of this Red team thus far.
“Defensively and blocking-wise, we are just very disciplined. We know what the other team is going to run, so we’re making them uncomfortable and having to do things they’re not used to,” Vande Berg said. “It’s very frustrating for the other team because they have to change things up against us.”
Brown (8-5, 1-2) is under new leadership this year. Ahen Kim, long-time assistant at Patriot League powerhouse American University, is in his first season at the helm in Providence.
Despite the new coaching regime, Vande Berg feels that the Red has a feel for what Brown’s strategy will be.
“They don’t have a ton of new players playing, but they do have a little bit of a different style. They’re still the same in that they dig a lot of balls and send it back over the net and just wait for the other team to make a mistake.” First ball contact has been a focus this week in preparation for the Bears.
Friday night will also set up a head-to-head matchup between two of the best outside hitters in the league. Brown senior Sabrina Stillwell leads the Ivy League in both kills (208) and kills per set (4.00). Cornell senior Carla Sganderlla ranks second in both categories, with 157 kills and 3.57 kills per set.
Friday’s match is also the team’s annual Dig Pink night. Money will be raised for the Side-Out Foundation and its research on breast cancer treatment. To support, fans can donate at the match or online.
The match is at 7 p.m. Friday at Newman Arena.