Natalie Ledonne / Duke Athletics

Cornell beat Long Island University in straight sets before losing to Duke.

September 19, 2021

Volleyball Ends Non-Conference Play by Splitting a Pair at the Duke Classic

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This past weekend, the Cornell women’s volleyball team traveled to Durham, North Carolina, to compete at the Duke Classic. The Red split the tournament, beating Long Island University in its first match, but dropping its final match against Duke. The second game that was scheduled against North Carolina Central University was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. 

In their match against LIU (3-9), the Red dominated the Sharks, sweeping them in three sets 26-24, 25-23, 25-23. The first set was closely contested, with the score knotted nine times. However, the Red was able to score four straight points to win the set. 

The second set was just as intense. Cornell at one point led 20-13, but the Sharks pulled off a comeback to tie the score back up at 21-21. Unshaken, the Red was still able to finish off the rally with a block to win the second set. 

The third set proved to be no different than the first two, as neither team built up a lead of more than three points. The Red, however, capped off the set on a 5-1 run and completed the sweep to beat LIU.

The game showed the team’s determination and grit. Each set could have gone either way, but the Red stayed confident and stuck to their game plan to win every point.

“I think a lot of it had to do with channeling and coming back to what makes us successful,” said Head Coach Trudy Vande Berg. “We were aggressive on our serve, and instead of worrying about making the error, we were just going after it, and that always makes a difference in a match like that.”

The Red’s defense stood out throughout the match, as it tallied eight blocks compared to the Sharks’ two. Freshman Jackie Baker and senior Madison Baptiste led the team with 15 and 14 digs respectively, while senior Casey Justus had a match-high of four blocks. On offense, senior Jillienne Bennett, Madison Baptiste and Justus notched 10, nine and nine kills respectively.

“We needed some different people to step up and play a good match,” Vande Berg said. “They needed to do a good job of [doing] what we needed them to do, and they did.” 

Despite the game being freshman Brooke Cooper’s second career game, she showed up and contributed in big ways to help the Red complete the sweep, tallying seven kills and two blocks.

“Brooke came in and played really well for us,” Vande Berg said. “She took a lot of nice swings and did what she needed to do blocking and that helped everyone else out.” 

Cornell’s attention to detail helped solidify the win. The coaching staff felt their performance marked improvement from last weekend, when they dropped two close games to UNLV and Niagara University.

​​“Everyone did what they needed to do and took care of the little things,” Vande Berg said. “That was good to see because we didn’t do that last weekend when we were getting close to the end of sets. We weren’t executing and taking care of the little things so we could do the big things, and we did that today.” 

In their second and last match of the tournament against Duke (9-2), the Red was not able to hold off the Blue Devils, losing in three straight sets, 22-25, 20-25 and 20-25. Similar to the match against LIU, each set was closely fought, but the Red was not able to overtake the offensive prowess of its opponent. The Blue Devils recorded 44 kills compared to the Red’s 30 and 37 assists compared to the Red’s 27. 

Despite the loss, Madison Baptiste, junior Emma Worthington and sophomore Rylee Baptiste put up solid numbers, notching eight kills, 20 assists, and 12 digs, respectively. 

Duke went on to dominate the rest of the tournament on their home court, sweeping not only Cornell, but also NC Central and LIU.

Next Saturday, the team, now 4-4, will travel to New York City to face off against Columbia (3-6), their first Ivy League opponent of the year. This game will mark the beginning of Ivy League play that will last into mid-November.