This past weekend, the women’s volleyball team traveled to New York and picked up victories against Cornell University (4-13, 0-7 Ivy) and Columbia University (5-11, 3-4 Ivy) to stretch its win-streak to five games and climb to first place in the Ivy League.
The women (9-7, 6-1 Ivy) traveled to Ithaca, New York, to face Cornell, a team which was determined to break its seven-game losing streak. The first set of the game featured a neck-and-neck battle between the Big Green and the Big Red as the score was tied on 12 different occasions. After gaining a 19-17 lead, Dartmouth allowed a fatal 4-0 run by Cornell and was unable to regain the lead from that point forward. The Big Green managed to bring the deficit back to one at 23-22 but could not complete the comeback as the game ended on an attack error followed by a kill.
The second set started very much the same way as the first and featured 14 different ties. Cornell took an early 5-2 lead after Dartmouth committed a service error and three attack errors. But the Big Green found its groove early on as Kaira Lujan ’16 added two kills and Sierra Lyle ’19 registered back-to-back service aces. From that point forward, neither team led by more than four points and with the score tied 15-all, both teams proceeded to take turns registering kills until a kill by Emily Astarita ’17 marked the beginning of a 5-0 run for the Big Green that gave Dartmouth the largest lead of the game. Dartmouth won the gritty set after Astarita’s 11th kill of the match ended the head-to-head battle for a final score of 25-21, leveling the match 1-1.
The third set of the game started with another 5-2 lead in favor of the Big Red. This time Dartmouth exploded for a 9-1 run that featured three service aces and five kills from four different players. Shortly after, the Big Green went on a 5-0 run to lead 21-11 and cruised to win the set 25-16. Dartmouth secured a solid lead yet again in the fourth and final set as the women went on two 4-0 runs early in the game to lead 19-12. The Big Green finished the set 25-20, winning the match 3-1 and moving to a 5-1 conference record.
Astarita registered a team-high 18 kills and nine digs, Paige Caridi ’16 added six kills and 11 digs and Kayden Cook ’16 dished 29 assists. After losing to Harvard University the following day, Cornell lost to all the other seven schools in the Ivy League Conference to fall to last place with a win-less 0-7 record.
After beating Cornell, Dartmouth traveled to New York City to face Columbia University, winning a five-set battle against the Lions. Once again, the Big Green dropped the opening set of the match before bouncing back to claim the second set and level the match at 1-1.
In the third set, both teams exchanged lengthy runs after the score was tied 4-4, and the two teams found themselves tied at 20-20. Dartmouth seamed to seal the deal, but the Lions rose to the occasion and scored four points on three Dartmouth attack errors and a service error, forcing the set into a sudden-death scenario. Neither team could gain a two-point edge, and both sides exchanged scores until Columbia led 28-27. Shifting the momentum, Astarita registered three consecutive kills and sealed a crucial victory in the set with the final score of 30-28. The fourth set of the game also went into a sudden-death scenario, but with the Big Green up 25-24, the Lions scored three consecutive points on a service error, service ace and attack error to even the match at two sets apiece.
In the fifth and final set of the game, the Big Green was able to take a 6-4 lead that quickly evaporated after a 5-0 run by the Lions. After a timeout, Dartmouth staged a run of its own and tied the game at 10-10. The Lions, however, jumped ahead yet again, leading the abbreviated deciding set 14-11 with a chance to hand Dartmouth its second conference loss.
The Big Green managed to get a point of a kill from Caridi, and with the set and match on the line, Julia Lau ’17 was handed the high-pressure role of serving the ball. Soon after, an attack and ball handling error by Columbia brought the game to a sudden-death scenario. The game would continue with the score tied 17-17, and a kill by Columbia brought the Lions at the brink of closing out the game yet again. But a kill by Molly Kornfeind ’17 and a Lions attack error turned the tables as the Big Green capitalized on the opportunity, bringing the dramatic game to an end with another kill by Astarita.
“We just want to win badly,” Astarita said. “When it gets that close and it’s toward the end of the match, the will to win and the will to win each point gets that much stronger. We knew we couldn’t lose so we had to stay aggressive and stay tenacious each point.”
The team gave much of the credit to Lau for her composure and ability to dig the team out of a three-point deficit.
“[Lau] put a lot of really good balls on their outside hitters, and Columbia came out a little hesitant and we were able to capitalize on that and come back aggressive,” Caridi said. “So I think the mindset was that we weren’t going to lose.”
When asked about the team’s success, Lujan pointed to the team’s dedication.
“It’s a testament to the hard work that we’ve put in starting with preseason all the way through now,” Lujan said. “Everyone comes into the gym really giving their best effort every day and it’s really showing on the court.”
Dartmouth will have to secure its position in the standings as the Big Green hosts Harvard (9-8, 5-2 Ivy) this Friday at 7 p.m.