With showdowns against Princeton and Penn on the docket, Cornell volleyball needed a big weekend to keep pace in the race for the top spot in the Ivy League.
The Tigers have finished first or second in the Ancient Eight in the last five years, and they’ve proven to be a tough opponent for the Red.
A month ago, Cornell seemed to buck that trend as it defeated Princeton, 3-1, in what many saw as a changing of the tide in the conference.
But on Friday, the Tigers came back with a vengeance. While the Red won its first two sets over Princeton, 25-19 and 25-22, the Tigers stormed back to take the last three sets and earn a win in a pivotal matchup, 25-21, 25-21, and 15-12.
Sophomore outside hitter Madison Baptiste was the star player in Friday’s game, scoring a match-high and career-best 23 hits. She also added two service aces and two blocks.
Head coach Trudy Vande Berg took note of the sophomore’s outstanding performance.
“We’re a team that has so many people that can score,” Vande Berg said. “She really stepped up. She’s been playing really well … scoring well and at a high percentage … I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Baptiste single-handedly contributed almost 25% of the total points won by the Red, and she emphasized the role her teammates played in her success.
“I think we…[challenge] each other every practice and take the time to make sure we’re playing crisp and clean,” Baptiste said. “I think this helps us as a team excel during games.”
The sophomore also commented on the factors that led to the Red’s ultimate defeat against Princeton, a loss that dropped Cornell from first to second in the Ivy League conference.
“I think we came out really confident but then we were just making too many errors at crucial times in the game,” Baptise said. “They were being more conscious of the ball and that was … a big determining factor.”
Despite the disappointing loss, Cornell was able to salvage at least one conference victory during the weekend.
Against Penn, the Red bounced back to earn a dominant 3-0 victory on Saturday.
As a team, Cornell posted a .333 hitting percentage, markedly better than the Quakers’ percentage of .085. Meanwhile, Baptiste continued her strong performance, earning a double-double with 12 kills and 13 digs.
After the Red’s weekend split, Princeton currently occupies the top slot in the Ivy League with a conference record of 9-1. Cornell and Yale are tied for second, with each boasting 8-2 conference records.
The Red will host Yale this Friday in another crucial conference matchup. During its last meeting on Oct. 19, Cornell lost to the Bulldogs, 3-1.
“Yale is always an emotional game because it’s two good teams playing against each other,” Baptiste said. “[We need to make] sure everyone’s doing their job. Leveling the playing field and making sure we’re … being more consistent with our level of play.”
“Our focus will be on staying disciplined and focused in the long rallies,” Vande Berg said. “Whichever team wins the long rallies will win the match.”
Along with its big match on Friday, Cornell will also square off against Brown at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Newman Arena.