A new addition to the Harvard Crimson women’s volleyball team has been making waves and garnering attention from the University and the Ivy League conference. Freshmen middle blocker Christina Cornelius has been honored for her offensive and defensive prowess during her first month of collegiate gameplay.
Cornelius, a Los Angeles native, wanted to attend a school with a positive reputation in academics and athletics.
“Since I’ve been here, that’s exactly what I’ve gotten,” said Cornelius. “I’ve gotten to be with a great team and also work super hard and play at a high level, but also in the classroom, I’ve got to meet great professors and great students.”
During her inaugural season, Cornelius had a series of career highs that complemented the team’s conference title run last season with 17 kills, 6 digs, and 41 attacks, according to Harvard Athletics.
“I always want to win, I’m very competitive,” said Cornelius. “I am ready to achieve the same goals this year, work as hard as I can to give as much as I can to the team.”
Cornelius’ hard work recently earned her Ivy League Rookie of the Week, according to Harvard Athletics. Getting the honor was a goal of Cornelius’.
“Being able to get that award so early was awesome,” she said. “It shows that what I’ve been doing so far is positive.”
A role model and major influence for Cornelius is her grandfather Don Cornelius, the creator of the hit TV show Soul Train.
“When people thought that he couldn’t do something, he didn’t listen, he did what he believed is right,” said Cornelius. “From his success and all of his accomplishments, it shows that believing in yourself and doing what you think is right and working hard will lead you to success.”
Cornelius said there is a good sense of comradery among the team. The players give each other compliments along with constructive criticism. Cornelius plays with an air of equanimity, occasionally getting excited.
“On most of my teams, they call me the rock of the team,” she said. “I don’t really get rattled by pressure that much and I feel like I’m a calm presence on the court.”
After trying basketball and track at a young age, Cornelius said she began playing volleyball at 12 and played for the Mizuno Long Beach volleyball club.
During her senior year at Windward high school, Cornelius was captain of the volleyball team and earned Dean’s list honors. She also earned a spot on the California Interscholastic Federation first team in both 2013 and 2014, according to Harvard Athletics. Transitioning to collegiate level gameplay is “a learning experience” according to Cornelius.
“These girls have more experience playing collegiate volleyball,” she said. “You actually see how they work and see how they balance school and sports.”
Although the team suffered a loss by Darmouth on Sept. 25, they rallied back last weekend by defeating Princeton and Penn giving the Crimson a 2-1 conference record.
“The pain of losing is worse than the happiness you get when winning because you put so much out there and getting it taken away from you is an awful feeling,” said Cornelius. “We’re a bunch of fighters and we’re very, very competitive.”