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  • Michael Dweck

Joanna Chang: Spotlighting Big Red Volleyball’s Standout Freshman

Coming off a 17-6 overall record and 8-4 record in conference play, The Cornell Big Red Volleyball team finished third in the Ivy League for the second consecutive year. Making a huge contribution to the Big Red’s success was freshman Outside Hitter Joanna Chang. Chang finished fourth on the team with 143 kills, including a career high 12 in her first career Ivy matchup at home against Columbia.

Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Joanna excelled as a member of AVC volleyball club, the top club team in Cleveland at the open level, as well as at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School. She helped lead her high school team to the 2016 State Championship and was named first-team All-Ohio in 2018.

She discovered her passion for volleyball at just 11 years old, as her father, Yunhai, played professionally in China. She credits her father with teaching her everything she knows about the game and fostering her love for the sport.

Chang was first seen scouted by Cornell at just 16 years-old when playing for her club team and received interest from both Cornell and Colgate. Ultimately, Chang chose Cornell because of the size, location, and her relationship with the coaches. Upon arriving at Cornell, she found the simple time management of the sport to be the biggest adjustment from her high school and club days.

“We practiced for two hours, three times a week. Now we practice five days a week for three hours,” Chang said.

She credits all of the seniors on the team with easing her transition to not just the team but to college life in general.

Over the course of the season, Chang says she not only really developed her blocking, but she learned how to become a better teammate. Her favorite moment this year came in the Ivy League opener at home against Columbia. With her father in the stands watching, Chang recorded a season-high 12 kills and .476 hitting percentage, as well as seven digs, two assists, one ace, one block assist, and a personal 13.5 points.

Not only did her performance lead to a Cornell sweep, but it also earned her Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors. When asked about why she thought the team was so successful, she replied: “everyone just wanted it badly this year.” Going forward, she believes the team is set up for great success but intends to focus on how the team can finish games once approaching set point.

In her free time, Joanna enjoys socializing with other Cornell students outside of volleyball. With winter break fast approaching, she plans on remaining in volleyball shape by working out at the gym and following team workout plans. Joanna’s ball control and stellar distribution will be a key part of the Big Red’s team for years to come.


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