|Kills||Emily Wemhoff (14)||Anja Malesevic (25)|
|Assists||Zoe Chamness (27)||Audrey Cheng (42)|
|Aces||Four Tied (1)||Anja Malesevic (3)|
|Digs||Kiley McPeek (16)||Natasha Kosowicz (22)|
|Blocks||Jada Stackhouse (4)||Chichi Ikwuazom (11)|
NEW YORK — Three Lions recorded career-highs, including 25 kills by senior Anja Malesevic, which culminated in a four-set victory for the Columbia volleyball team over Cornell (25-20, 25-15, 23-25, 25-19) on Saturday afternoon at Levien Gymnasium.
Columbia (7-10, 2-6 Ivy) put together its best hitting percentage of the Ivy League season (.259) and matched its season-high in blocks (14) from last Saturday’s victory against Princeton. Malesevic was the catalyst on the attack, coming up with at least five kills in each set that included a .714 mark to help the Lions pull away from the Big Red (8-9, 4-4 Ivy) by a large margin in the second. The Serbian senior also had four blocks and three aces to record her first collegiate 30-point match. She is averaging 22 kills over her last three outings and added 11 digs on Saturday for her second double-double of the year.
“Anja had a great weekend last weekend and I think she surprised herself with how engaged and successful she was,” said head coach Brie Katz, whose team avenged a four-set loss to the Big Red from earlier in the year. “Her play has a lot of influence on the court and she really stepped up, which was great to see.”
The win moves Columbia to 4-1 this season at home. The Lions have won 13 of their last 15 matches at Levien Gymnasium dating back to last season, including eight of their last 10 Ivy League contests.
“We talk a lot about protecting and defending our court and we love playing here,” Katz added. “Last year we were extremely successful at home and last weekend gave us the confidence that we needed. We were confident coming into the match and we executed on our game plan.”
Junior Natasha Kosowicz and sophomore Chichi Ikwuazom also posted career marks. Kosowicz, one of three team captains, did so on defense with a match-high 22 digs. It marked the outside hitter’s first career match of more than 20, seven of which came in the opening set. Meanwhile, Ikwuazom skied for 11 blocks to tie her career-high from last season against Fordham. The 11 rejections are one off the program’s single-match record of 12 and marked Ikwuazom’s fourth career match of 10 or more.
“Being at home is giving us a lot more confidence and we’re playing way more aggressively,” said Kosowicz, who also added seven kills, two blocks and an ace in Saturday’s victory. “We’ve got our fire and energy back and it’s really showing over the last three matches. You can see a different mindset now – the team is all fired up and playing with a ton of energy.”
Columbia’s newfound energy helped it break a 10-all tie in the opening set with a 5-1 run that put it ahead for good. Ikwuazom and Malesevic combined for a block that forced Cornell to burn a timeout trailing 15-11. The Lions pushed the lead to eight, 22-14, with a 7-1 run that included blocks by Ikwuazom, rookie setter Audrey Cheng and junior outside Luciana Del Valle. Cheng went on to lead all players with 42 assists, while Del Valle accounted for 18 digs, eight kills and three blocks.
The second set was as dominant as the Lions have been all season long. Columbia hit .520 in the frame with 14 kills and just a single error on 25 attempts. Cornell was hanging around midway through, 14-13, but the second half of the set was all Lions. Columbia ended the set on an 11-2 run, which included five straight points on two Ikwuazom blocks and kills by Kosowicz and Ikwuazom. Del Valle put down the clincher to send the Lions into the locker room ahead by two sets.
Cornell rallied from 15-10 down to win the third set, 25-23, but the Lions would not be denied their second straight Ivy League victory. A 9-3 run put Columbia way on top, 20-12, in the fourth. Malesevic accounted for seven of the home team’s 11 kills in the frame, including her 25th of the afternoon that clinched the set and the match.
Columbia returns to Levien Gymnasium to host Harvard and Dartmouth next Friday and Saturday. Weekend action gets under way Friday night against the Crimson at 7 p.m.