Harvard Women’s Volleyball Team acquired a fierce competitor when former Windward senior, Christina Cornelius, committed to the university back in 2014. Since she arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cornelius has made a historical impact on the program.
Cornelius will enter her junior year as team co-captain for the 2017 season. Cornelius attributes her ability to excel under pressure as one of the reasons she was given a leadership role.
“Being voted captain this year was such an honor to me because … I love leading by example,” she said. “I always wanted to be a leader, I’ve always wanted to be that impactful player that people look up to when it’s a tight game or when they’re nervous about something.”
Cornelius is a sociology major with a secondary focus on African American studies; she noted her favorite class was intro to African American studies, taught by renowned author and filmmaker, Louis Gates Jr.
“I’ve seen him all around, I know he’s such an influential Black figure,” she said. “He’s a great professor, a great lecturer, so it was really interesting to learn about my own culture.”
With the help of Cornelius, the Crimson won the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award for the ninth consecutive year. The AVCA gives said award to teams with at least a cumulative 3.30 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
The Crimson Women’s volleyball team has a close bond, studying together in the library and forming study groups.
“Everyone on my team is so hardworking and so dedicated, not only on the court, but in the classroom,” Cornelius said. “Seniors help freshmen pick good classes, so it’s like a really good support system.”
Throughout the 2016-17 season, Cornelius proved to be a reliable talent in clutch situations. Her overall performance was awarded the All-Ivy League Second Team.
She is the record holder for single season block assists at 112. Cornelius made several new career highs in digs (13), blocks (12), and assisted blocks (11) during her sophomore year.
Cornelius finished the season with 195 kills, the second highest kills on the team.
A fond moment during her time at Harvard was when the volleyball team defeated Princeton during her freshmen year; this earned the Crimson its first spot in the NCAA tournament for women’s volleyball in the school history.
“We just felt so prepared, we practiced so hard, and we wanted it so bad,” Cornelius said. “Me and our senior from last year, Corinne Bain, blocked their number one hitter and that was the last point and I just remember falling to my knees, just so happy that we were going [to the tournament].”
Harvard finished with a 9-14 overall record and a 7-7 record in conference play for the 2016-17 season. The Crimson had five freshmen on the squad and endured some injuries. However, the young players were eager to compete, according to Cornelius. Their competitive spirit reminded Cornelius of her fervor to contribute during her freshmen year.
“There were so many girls that just stepped right into the role,” she said. “We had some really powerful hitters that just came in, they weren’t afraid to challenge sophomores, juniors, and seniors.”
Cornelius attributes her family, including her late grandfather and the creator of Soul Train Don Cornelius for motivation.
“I feel like he was such a trailblazer,” Cornelius said about her grandfather. “He’s such an amazing person, I feel like if he can do that, I can do it too.”