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UAlbany Outlasts Cornell Volleyball, 3-1

ALBANY, N.Y. – In a neck-and-neck battle between the Cornell volleyball team and UAlbany in the finale of the Crowne Plaza Albany – The Desmond Hotel Volleyball Classic on Saturday night, the host team put on a gritty performance that the Big Red was unable to overcome, falling to the Great Danes, 3-1 (25-23, 21-25, 23-25, 23-25) for its first loss of the season (2-1).

Senior outside hitter Madison Baptiste notched a team-high 15 kills in the loss, and senior middle blocker Casey Justus also posted double-digit kills with 10 to go along with a .429 hitting percentage. Jackie Baker and Emma Worthington led the Big Red in the dig column, recording 13 digs a piece, with Kate Stration amassing double-digit digs as well with 10. Worthington collected a match-high 41 assists, while Sydney Moore led the Big Red in blocking with four block assists.

After notching a double-double in tonight’s contest (41 assists, 13 digs), as well as against St. John’s on Friday (53 assists, 13 digs), and being a consistent floor presence for the Big Red all weekend, Emma Worthington was named the Crowne Plaza Albany – The Desmond Hotel Volleyball Classic Most Valuable Player. Justus and Joanna Chang also earned spots on the All-Tournament team.

The stat sheet illustrates just how close the battle between the Big Red and Great Danes were, as UAlbany held the advantage in kills (57-54), assists (50-47), service aces (7-5), and digs (59-58), but by the slimmest of margins. There was one category that solidified the Great Dane’s success, however, as UAlbany controlled the competition at the net. The Great Danes racked up 28 block assists, compared to Cornell’s 10. UAlbany’s strong blocking, combined with a timeliness to rally when it needed to most, proved to be too much for the Big Red.

The first set would set the tone for how close the fight between the Big Red and Great Danes would be. With UAlbany out to an early 6-3 lead, Cornell established itself, scoring 12 of the next 15 points to take a 15-9 advantage and force a Great Dane timeout. Chang and Justus each notched a pair of kills during the series, and Baker served up an ace.

UAlbany would go on a run of its own out of the timeout, scoring five of the next six points to cut Cornell’s lead to two, 16-14. The Great Danes continued to hang around in the first set, and eventually overtook the Big Red, 20-19. With the scoreboard reading 23-22 in favor of UAlbany, Cornell buckled down, with a Justus kill tying things back up at 23-23. Sydney Moore would give the Big Red all the power it needed to win the first set, notching two of her three first-set kills on the final two points to give Cornell the 25-23 victory.

It was UAlbany that secured a lead in the second set, and with the score tied at 8-8, the Great Danes scored nine of the next 10 points to build a distinct 17-9 advantage. The Big Red called timeout at 14-9 after three straight UAlbany points to regroup, and when the Great Danes scored three more out of the timeout, Cornell said no more. Four straight Big Red points, including kills from Chang, Justus, and Baptiste, cut the UAlbany lead to 17-13.

This time it was Cornell that continued to chip back into the set, and with the score at 21-15, another stretch of four-straight Big Red points, highlighted by a Moore kill and Baptiste service ace, got Cornell within two, 21-19. The Big Red would get as close as one, 22-21, after a Jillienne Bennett kill and a Great Dane attack error, but a UAlbany timeout proved effective, and the Great Danes scored three points out of the timeout to win the second set, 25-21.

With the match now tied at one set a piece, and both teams having won the set in which it initially jumped out in front, Cornell had itself in good position in set three, holding an 18-13 advantage in the middle portion of the stanza. Whereas the Big Red was able to hold off the Great Dane comeback in the first frame, however, they were unable to in the third.

After a UAlbany timeout at 18-13, the Great Danes scored seven of the next nine points to tie things up, 20-20. UAlbany ultimately claimed a 23-21 advantage, and the Big Red took a timeout to try to halt the Great Danes’ momentum. The Big Red fought hard out of the break, with a kill by Justus keeping things within one, 23-22. UAlbany would force a set point at 24-22, and Baptiste did her best to fend it off, notching a kill to bring the score to 24-23, but UAlbany would go on to win the third set, 25-23.

UAlbany built an 8-5 lead in the early going in set four, but Baptiste quickly eliminated it, notching three-straight kills of her own to tie things up at 8-8. The Great Danes again took a slim 10-8 lead, and three-consecutive points on two more Baptiste kills and a UAlbany attack error gave the Big Red an 11-10 advantage. From here, Cornell held a small, but steady, advantage over the middle portion of the set, and with the Big Red leading 19-16, UAlbany called a timeout.

The Great Dane timeout once again proved successful, as UAlbany scored five straight points to take a 21-19 lead. The Big Red would once again respond, and it was none other than Baptiste, along with Avery Hanan, who notched kills to help the Big Red regain a 22-21 lead. The Great Danes would score the next two points, however, to bring the score to 23-22. Cornell took a timeout, and although a Hanan kill tied things up at 23-23, UAlbany scored the next two points to win the set, 25-23, and the match, 3-1.

The Cornell volleyball team will be back in action next weekend when it hosts the Cornell Invitational on Sept. 10-11 in Ithaca, N.Y. The Big Red will take on UNLV on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. before playing a pair of contests on Sept. 11 against Niagara at 11 a.m. and Bucknell at 5 p.m.

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