Volleyball continues quest for Ivy title

After a pair of nail-biting home wins last weekend, the women’s volleyball team heads to Boston today to begin the first leg of their weekend conference campaign. The Bulldogs (8-5, 3-2 Ivy) will square off against Harvard (10-6, 5-1 Ivy) tonight before heading to Hanover, N.H. to face Dartmouth (4-12, 1-5 Ivy) Saturday afternoon.

Currently, the Crimson sit at the top of the Ancient Eight. Leading the conference in hitting percentage (.236) and second in blocks with 2.13 per game, Harvard will provide a real test for Yale.

“I expect Harvard to come out really strong against us,” setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 said. “As the league has proven thus far, anybody can beat anybody at any time, and the Harvard players know we are just as hungry for the Ivy title as they are. It should be a fight.”

Despite dropping some earlier games to weaker teams, Becker and other Elis are well aware that the Ivy title is within reach. After their strong performances the past two weekends, they are heading into tonight’s match apparently ready to make their run.

“Harvard will be a tough team to beat, but we are prepared for their offense,” middle blocker Lauren Burke ’05 said. “If we are on our game, especially on defense, we can definitely pull off a win.”

On top of the list of Harvard’s offensive threats is middle blocker Kaego Ogbechie, who has come back from an injury-ridden 2003 season to rank third in the Ivy League in both kills (204, 3.71 kpg) and blocks (60, 1.09 bpg).

“Harvard has a really good middle who can hit with power, but other than that I think we are a good match for [the Crimson],” outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said. “Player for player, I think we have just as good a team as they do.”

One of the main reasons for the Bulldogs’ recent success is Farrell’s dominating play. After sitting out the majority of the 2003 season due to injury, Farrell has bounced back in 2004 to become a leading force for the Eli offense and defense.

“Shannon has been a very influential player on the court this year, both offensively and defensively,” Burke said. “Her great serve and back row attack have been made a big impact in our games.”

In last weekend’s back-to-back home victories over Columbia and Cornell, Farrell racked up 43 kills and 20 digs while averaging a .310 hitting percentage. One of the most versatile Yale players, she currently leads the Bulldogs in kills with 181 and ranks third with 165 digs.

Farrell attributes much of her recent success to her work ethic and dedication.

“I’ve been working really hard in practice to try and catch up for the time I lost last season, and it gets easier each day I’m out there,” Farrell said. “I basically feel like a freshman this season, so being in a game situation has helped get me back to where I need to be.”

For her performances, Farrell became the second Yale player in a row to be named Ivy Player of the Week. Middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06 earned the same honors a week earlier.

Although the Big Green have not fared well this season, the Bulldogs will need to stay focused Saturday. With the Ivy title still up for grabs, each game is crucial.

“As we learned at the beginning of the season, no match can be overlooked,” Becker said. “I expect that Dartmouth will be fired up to play us, and by no means will they simply hand us the match. We need to be just as fired up for them as we are on Saturday against Harvard.”

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