This past weekend, volleyball (5-11, 3-4 Ivy) hit the road to battle Penn (2-15, 0-7 Ivy) in Philadelphia and then went to face Princeton (9-7, 6-2 Ivy) in New Jersey. Volleyball took down Penn in four sets, but dropped a four setter to Princeton.
In the two games, sophomore outside hitters Eliza Konvicka and Nicole Mallus accumulated 35 kills, 11 blocks, 22 kills and five blocks, respectively. In the game against Princeton, freshman outside hitter Jaida Sione had 10 kills and two blocks.
“We had a lot of good plays from our offensive players, and we blocked a ton of balls,” said head coach Trudy Vande Berg. “Eliza [Konvicka], Nicole [Mallus] and Jaida [Sione] all did great jobs hitting from the pins or middle.”
The Red started off solid in the first set against Penn, trading points with the Quakers and eventually deadlocking the score at 10 apiece. Penn would go on a 3-0 run that firmly gave them the lead. Penn would continue to chip away at Cornell’s defenses until the game was at set point, 24-17 to Penn’s advantage.
“I think they came out a little passive. We were letting them score the easy balls,” Vande Berg said.
The Red would use the Quakers’ service error to send freshman libero Sarita Pomar back for the serve. The freshman came in clutch and sent the Red on an 8-0 run fueled by three aces from the Puerto Rico native. Cornell would go on to take the first set, 26-24.
“That comeback was crazy,” Vande Berg said. “I was sitting on that bench like whoa, this is insane. We started doing all the things we should’ve been doing from the start.”
Using the thrill of the first set as fuel, Cornell got off to a hot start in the second, stretching the lead to 16-10. The Red would continue to have the lead until a 5-0 run by the Quakers tied the score at 21-21. The two teams would continue to exchange points back and forth, until a service error by the Red gave Penn its first and only set of the match.
In the third set, Cornell once again started strong, but didn’t relinquish its momentum to Penn this time. The Quakers would cut its deficit to as close as two, but the Red pulled ahead to take the set, 25-18.
“In the second set we came out a little passive and ended up losing the momentum. But the third set, we were like screw that and came out strong from the beginning,” Vande Berg said.
Cornell would go on to win the fourth set, highlighted by a match-high 15 kills and a .481 hitting percentage compared to the Quakers four kills and -.100 hitting percentage.
The match against Priencton started neck-and-neck, with both teams trying to pull ahead. Cornell would pull ahead to a 10-6 advantage thanks to a 4-0 run, but the Tigers would claw its way back, winning five consecutive points to take the lead. Despite a Cornell timeout, Princeton wouldn’t break its energy and clinched the set, 26-24.
The second set was similar to the first set as it had both teams jockeying for positioning. This time, however, the Red would pull ahead with a 14-12 lead and never give it back. Cornell won four out of the last five points to take the second set, 25-19.
With both teams not giving an inch, the third set was a nail-biter. Princeton would take an early 6-4 lead, and the Red would only trail by a point or two until a block by Mallus gave Cornell the lead, 20-19. But the magic disappeared, as a 6-0 run gave the Tigers its second set.
“At the end of the third set, I got a yellow card, and I kind of lost my temper,” Vand Berg said. “In the Ivy League, we don’t have the challenge review system, which I think is a disservice to our athletes. Regardless, I should not have lost my temper, it just made us lose control.”
The fourth set came to a brisk end after a 6-0 run gave Princeton the victory, 25-13.
“We just let it [the yellow card] roll into the next set and started trying to do things outside of ourselves. But, overall, I think we played a good match and did a lot of great things,” Vande Berg said.
With the conclusion of the game against Princeton, the Red has played every school in the Ivy League. It has wins over Columbia, Harvard and Penn and losses to Yale, Dartmouth, Brown and Princeton.
Vande Berg is aware of what needs to be done to have success in the team’s upcoming games.
“We have to dig more balls and just be more disciplined on the court. There are definitely areas we’re prioritizing for the second half of the season, but I think we’re in an okay position to get that fourth spot in the conference tournament,” Vande Berg said.
The Red returns home next Saturday to take on Columbia in Newman Arena at 2 p.m. The game can be streamed live on ESPN+.