A trip to upstate New York was all it took to snap the women’s volleyball team’s 11-game conference win streak.
On Saturday afternoon, Cornell (10-2, 3-0 Ivy) handed the women’s volleyball team its first loss in a month and its first Ivy League loss since last October. The Elis dropped a 1-3 match to Cornell (30-28, 27-30, 30-28, 30-23) on Saturday after downing Columbia (2-11, 0-3) 3-1 on Friday night. Though Yale (11-2, 2-1) streaked into the game on a 10-0 run, the Big Red’s attempt to avenge last season’s conference playoff loss at the hands of the Elis was too strong to be denied.
Outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 blamed the loss on lapses in mental focus rather than a disparity of talent or lack of effort.
“It’s weird because we were all really fired up to play them, but for whatever reason, we just weren’t as competitive as we should have been,” Farrell said. “I don’t think they wanted it more, I just think that a lot of things weren’t going our way. We had too many mental errors, too many little mistakes that they capitalized on.”
One such shortcoming was the Elis’ inability to retain a lead. At moments during sets two, three and four of the match, Yale led Cornell by at least five points. But if the Big Red pulled through with a big kill, or if Yale made an attack error, the Bulldogs’ play suffered. Largely thanks to Big Red hitter Elizabeth Bishop, who had 21 kills and 12 digs during the match, Cornell managed to fight its way back from every deficit.
“We would get two errors in a row, and then we’d just lose our momentum and they would capitalize on that,” Farrell said. “And they would start to chip away at our lead. In the fourth game, it seemed like they would do something good, and we wouldn’t react with the same intensity that they were coming with. They’re a good team, so they’re going to get their kills. You just have to find a way to do better and get yours.”
In addition to the outstanding offense, which, led by Bishop, had a .294 hitting percentage, the Big Red had vengeance on its side. After coming out beneath Yale in all three of the teams’ meetings last season, Cornell hit the court thinking about nothing but getting a win against the Elis, Yale head coach Erin Appleman said.
“I think Cornell is very competitive,” Appleman said. “Obviously, they’ve been thinking about this match since last November, and I don’t think my players gave it a second thought before last week. We’ve been on their minds a lot longer.”
Friday’s victory over Columbia (30-23, 25-30, 30-19, 30-21), though it produced a better result, helped highlight another area the Bulldogs need to improve in order to remain successful in league competition. Though the Elis easily took the second two sets, the Bulldogs’ lack of communication caused them to struggle through the first two, outside hitter Nicole Perkins ’08 said. The Bulldogs had to fight back from an early deficit to scrape by with a win during the first set and fell to the Lions in the second.
“On the court, there needs to be a lot of communication and we all know that,” Perkins said. “In both the games, there were plays where we ended up losing a point because of a lack of communication — like both players looking at each other instead of going for the ball. It’s something that takes time, but it’s something we need to work on fixing quickly.”
Despite the loss and the occasional mental lapses, the Bulldogs remain confident about the rest of their Ivy League season. For a team whose goal is reclaiming the conference crown, Cornell is not the only game of the season, Perkins said. The Elis are looking forward to this weekend’s matches against Harvard and Dartmouth to continue their fight for the title.
“I think everybody would have loved to beat Cornell,” Perkins said. “But we didn’t, and I don’t think that necessarily needs to be a heartbreak. I feel like it gave us that little extra push that we need. We know what we need to focus on, what we need to do, and I think we’re better equipped to do that having had our first loss and having struggled with a good team.”