Coming off their first Ivy League win against University of Pennsylvania, Cornell’s volleyball team hit the road this past weekend to face off against Harvard and Dartmouth. The Red unfortunately failed to find consistent success against its opponents and lost both contests 3-1 in similar fashions.
In its first match against Harvard (7-9, 4-3 Ivy), the Red lost to the Crimson in four sets (22-25, 20-25, 25-16, 19-25). The teams were quite evenly matched, with Cornell and Harvard tallying 44 and 48 assists and 49 and 47 digs, respectively and both teams having nine blocks. The Red, however, were out matched in the kills and aces columns, as the Crimson recorded 55 to the Red’s 47 kills and seven aces to the Red’s three.
Coming into the game, Harvard was ranked second in the Ivy League in aces with 1.67 aces per set, and they certainly used it to their advantage throughout the match.
Despite the loss, many players still put up solid numbers, including senior Casey Justus and freshman Camryn Carlo, who recorded 11 and nine kills, respectively. Junior setter Emma Worthington also notched a game-high 26 assists, while freshman libero Jackie Baker impressed with 13 digs.
“[This was] Harvard’s … first home game, they’ve been on the road for a long time so obviously they were pretty excited,” said Carlo. “They just came in with that mindset and I don’t think we were fully mentally ready for that.”
Not only did Cornell struggle with Harvard’s homecoming atmosphere, but the suboptimal court conditions also proved difficult for players to overcome.
“Overall, we had good moments and bad moments,” said Worthington. “On Friday, there was a lot of adversity to overcome with the floor being so slippery and losing points directly attributed to that.”
In the third set — the only set the Red won — the team seemed to hit their stride, winning comfortably with a final of 25-16. Cornell out-hit Harvard .500 to -.037 in the set, as the Crimson committed 10 costly errors. With momentum on its side, the Red looked to take the must-win fourth set, but came up short and lost 19-25.
“I think we eventually play well, but it’s not until the third set, so that’s definitely something we need to work on for this upcoming weekend,” said Carlo. “Even though we eventually play good, it’s too late, and it allows the other team to get into a rhythm.”
Cornell experienced a similar fate in their match against Dartmouth (10-6, 2-5 Ivy), where the Red’s only victory came in the third set, as they lost 3-1 (19-25, 14-25, 25-23, 20-25). In the first two sets, Dartmouth was able to build up early leads that ultimately were too large for the Red to overcome.
In the third set, players put up gritty performances to push Cornell to victory. Senior Madison Baptiste notched a pair of kills and back-to-back aces to spark the team’s comeback, from down 7-10 to retaking a 12-11 lead. After a timeout, the Red then went on a dominant 10-2 run, in which senior Jillienne Bennett ignited the offense with three kills. Dartmouth tried to come back, but Cornell was able to hang on to a tight 25-23 victory.
In the must-win fourth set, however, the Red fought hard to keep the match alive, but were ultimately not able to produce another win, falling 20-25.
“We fought back really hard in the third and fourth sets, but the first two sets were not our best volleyball,” said Worthington.
Throughout this match, the seniors helped carry the team, as Baptiste, Bennett, and Avery Hanan tallied 14, 13, and nine kills respectively. Altogether, the seniors combined made up 43 of the Red’s 50 total kills.
“Harvard and Dartmouth are two teams who always play better at home, so being on the road and playing at their gyms always makes it difficult to beat them,” Worthington said. “They were in system most of the game which makes it harder to set up a solid block and defense around it. They both also weathered our comebacks really well by staying calm and stopping our runs early.”
In preparation for the second half of Ivy competition, the Red hope to reflect on what worked during its third-set victories and build upon that success to improve the team as a whole.
“What we need to do is not even care about the other teams at this point,” Carlo said. “We need to focus on how to win because we have the talent, we’re just not utilizing it how we need to at this point. As long as we, in the second half of Ivy’s, start to play [well] in the first set, off the first point, I think we’ll be set. It’s just about our mindset going into these matches we need to improve.”
Worthington agreed with her teammate, adding that they need to be more aggressive in their game.
“We need to come out harder and put more pressure on teams to do things they aren’t comfortable with and force them to make changes,” she said.
The Red (5-10, 1-6 Ivy) are currently ranked last in the Ivy League rankings. They will hope to turn things around at home this Saturday, when they face off against Columbia University at Newman Arena.