This past weekend, volleyball handed Columbia its first win in conference play after dropping a five-setter to the Lions in Newman Arena.
“They came out aggressive,” said head coach Trudy Vande Berg. “They hadn’t won a match in conference yet, so they had nothing to lose.”
The first and second sets were echoes of each other, as they saw 20 tie scores and 10 lead changes combined. Late in the first set, a kill by sophomore outside hitter Eliza Konvicka gave the Red a slim 24-23 lead, but a double-kill by the Lions and an attack error by the Red cost them the set, 26-24.
“We just had less intensity than Columbia did,” Konvicka said. “They came out ready to go, and we just took a little while to get there.”
Late in the second set, both teams were tied at 22-apiece after a combo block by the Red, but the Lions kept its foot on the pedal and won three out of the four final points to snag the second set, 25-23.
“Even the first time we played them, they were a strong team with some strong players,” Vande Berg said. “They just hadn’t put it together yet.”
In the third set, the Red took a 6-4 lead that flipped the game on its head. The Lions would keep the deficit between one and three points, but a 17-9 run gave Cornell its biggest lead of the game, 23-15. Cornell finished off the third set on a block by Konvika and senior middle blocker Sydney Moore, 25-18.
“Overall, we had some pretty good moments,” Konvicka said.
Hoping to push the match to a fifth set, Cornell battled hard to take back the lead Columbia maintained for most of the fourth set. The Red seized its opening after an attack error by the Lions and seized the set, 26-24, after an ace by Konvicka.
Both teams started the decisive fifth set with a tie at two apiece, but an attack error by sophomore outside hitter Nicole Mallus, who had a match-high 17 kills recorded in the game, gave Columbia the momentum it needed to take the lead and run with it.
“We’re working on it in practice, the ability to work well under pressure,” Vande Berg said. “Something similar happened in that last set against Brown. We just got tight and tentative, and good things don’t happen when you get tentative.”
The Lions took the set, 15-9, and snapped its 10-match losing streak.
“It was more of a mental thing than a skill thing,” Konvicka said. “We just didn’t execute as well as we had been or even what we’re capable of.”
This weekend, the Red is looking to sustain its winning streak against Harvard and break its losing streak against Dartmouth.
“Dartmouth has really had the upper-hand on us the last couple of years,” Vande Berg said. “I don’t know if it’s because their strengths cancel out our strengths or because they really target our weaknesses. We’re just going to keep working on handling the pressure and prioritizing our strengths, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Red will travel to New England to face Harvard on Friday at 7 p.m. and Dartmouth on Saturday at 5 p.m. Both games can be streamed live on ESPN+.