DECORAH – Kathleen O'Connor's smoking spikes on the volleyball court have accumulated faster than the Ram coaching staff can be keep count. That speaks for the week it was for Cornell's star outside hitter.
The team gathered Sunday morning and recognized the program's new all-time kills leader, one day after O'Connor achieved the milestone in leading the Rams to a 4-0 record in the first-ever 12-team ACM Tournament at Luther College.
O'Connor had 12 kills in Saturday's finale against Luther to take over the No. 1 spot on Cornell's career list with 1,404. The 6-foot senior from Waukegan, Ill., entered the week in third place on that list behind Kristin Paczosa (1,339 kills, 2006-09) and Laura Dudgeon (1,395 kills, 2006-09).
O'Connor passed Paczosa Wednesday with a 20-kill night at Coe. She compiled 46 kills over the weekend to overtake Dudgeon. O'Connor hit .362 and averaged 3.83 kills per set in four tournament matches. She was Cornell's representative on the all-tournament team.
"It wasn't a matter of 'if', but 'when' for Katie," Cornell coach Jeff Meeker said. "She has had an outstanding career thus far, and the ACM Tournament may have been the best tournament of her career. I am proud of what she has accomplished and excited to see how we progress from here."
O'Connor is the ninth player in MWC history to reach 1,400 kills in a career. At her current pace, she could break into the top three (1,754 kills) among conference greats by season's end.
Rebounding from a mid-week, five-set loss to Coe, the Rams swept past their tournament foes with a perfect 12-0 record in sets played. Cornell claimed wins Friday over Carleton (25-15, 25-13, 25-19) and St. Olaf (25-14, 25-19, 25-13). On Saturday, the Rams took care of Beloit (25-9, 25-9, 25-15) and Luther (25-15, 25-8, 25-23).
The Rams outhit their four tourney opponents, .305 to .086, and held a whopping 33-5 advantage in ace serves. Cornell improved its season record to 6-2, all the wins via sweeps.
"We played very good volleyball this weekend," Meeker said. "Our serving was more aggressive and we were very smart offensively. As we continue to learn how to make shots and take what our opponents give us, we'll keep improving our efficiency."
O'Connor enjoyed a fine all-around tournament with 57 digs (4.75 dps), 12 blocks (1.0 bps) and four service aces. Junior Taylor Dicus was stellar as well, contributing 38 kills (3.17 kps) and a .341 attack percentage. She led the team with 14 blocks.
Junior libero Kylea Weber totaled 59 digs (5.36 dps) and five aces. Freshman Katherine Devlin fired a team-best eight aces and dished out 46 assists. Kelsey Gaillot finished with 70 assists (5.83 aps) and six aces. Jessica Noble had 29 kills, and Katie Sickelka added 10 blocks.
The Rams registered 14 aces in the Beloit win, six off the hand of Devlin. O'Connor posted double-doubles against Carleton (15 kills-15 digs), St. Olaf (12 kills-18 digs) and Luther (12 kills-15 digs).
"We received positive contributions from our entire team," Meeker said. "Now we need to get back to training as we strive to keep moving forward."
Coming up – The Rams return to action next weekend (Sept. 20-21) at the Illinois Wesleyan Tournament in Bloomington, Ill. Cornell has matches on Friday against Robert Morris-Peoria and Illinois Wesleyan. On Saturday, the Rams play Culver-Stockton and 20th-ranked Carthage.
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