Playing at Bartels Hall again for the first time in nearly two years, the women’s volleyball team hosted the Cornell Invitational against the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Niagara University and Bucknell University. Despite home court advantage, the Red dropped two of three in the tournament, with their only victory coming in their final match against Bucknell.
In Cornell’s (3-3) first match against UNLV (7-2), the Rebels extended their winning streak to four games after defeating the Red in three straight sets, 23-25, 23-25 and 14-25, respectively. The two teams fought neck and neck, as the Red stayed within striking distance, but they were not able to make a final push to overtake the Rebels.
Despite the loss, players continued to put up solid numbers, including junior Joanna Chang with a team-high eight kills and junior Emma Worthington with a match-high 24 assists and team-high 14 digs.
“UNLV was a really fun team to play,” Worthington said. “Obviously, I would have liked to win, but they were more physical than us and stayed aggressive the entire game, whereas we got tentative at certain times. They’re an NCAA tournament team and probably ranked in the top 30 in the country. But again, we can play with them and that’s exciting.”
As exciting as it was to face off against a highly ranked opponent, players still found themselves disappointed by the outcome after such a tight matchup.
“I would say that UNLV was difficult to beat due to their pure physicality,” said freshman Jackie Baker, who recorded five assists and six digs in the match. “Our outsides, opposites and middles all fought through the barriers of the biggest blocks we have seen all year and I think we did a fabulous job on defense, challenging them to earn every point. We were neck and neck for the entirety of each game. We played our hearts out, but they simply edged us at the end of the match.”
UNLV, currently ranked No. 6 in the NCAA, went on to dominate the tournament as a whole, winning all three matches 3-0 against the Red, Niagara and Bucknell.
Competing in their second match of the tournament against Niagara (3-6), Cornell was not able to hold on and lost in five sets against the Purple Eagles, 25-18, 14-25, 23-25, 25-17 8-15, respectively. In the loss, Niagara’s defense helped solidify the win, as they tallied more total blocks and digs than the Red.
“Niagara is the type of team that keeps the ball alive and waits for you to make errors,” Worthington said. “Unfortunately, we got frantic at times and their scrappy defense frustrated us.”
Worthington once again put up a match-high 43 assists and 26 digs and a team-high six blocks, while senior Madison Baptiste also notched a match-high 12 kills. Baker tallied an impressive 19 digs and eight assists.
“Niagara was a hiccup in our road this weekend,” Baker said. “I honestly believe that [although] it was disappointing for us, the things we learned about each other and how to move forward together as a team is what needed to happen for us to be the team we need to be … to win the Ivy League.”
The Red, looking to bounce back in the final game of the tournament against Bucknell (4-5), were able to dominate the Bison in three straight sets, beating them 25-20, 25-23 and 25-14, respectively. The Red’s offense carried the team to victory, as they notched 42 kills compared to Bucknell’s 29 and 32 assists compared to their opponent’s 26. Worthington continued her remarkable weekend by leading the match with 30 assists.
“Overall, we learned a lot about ourselves this weekend,” Worthington said. “We played three teams that were very different from each other, but similar to teams we will play later on in the Ivy League. We had good moments and we had bad moments, but the biggest thing we can takeaway is that we can play with any team that comes into our gym.”
“This weekend showed us that we need to not only work hard for our personal success, but [also] collectively work to achieve success together,” Baker said. “Moving forward in season I know that this team will continue to grow and reach our [full] potential.”
This season is still unlike any other for the Red. After missing a year of competition due to COVID-19, the team is still ramping up, acclimating to weekly tournaments once again and learning how to play together as one cohesive unit.
“I think that a lot of people forget that the Ivy League is the only conference in the country that didn’t have a season last year,” Worthington said. “There’s going to be a lot of growing pains and figuring things out because we haven’t played in such a long time. We’ve also only been training for less than a month. We’re going to keep getting better with every match as we keep getting back into the playing groove.”
Up next, the team will travel to Durham, North Carolina this weekend to compete in the Duke Invitational. They will face off against Long Island University (2-7) and North Carolina Central University (1-6) on Friday and Duke University (6-2) in the finale on Saturday.