The women’s volleyball team begins the second leg of its Ivy League season this weekend as the Bulldogs travel south to face Princeton at 7 p.m. tonight and Penn tomorrow afternoon. The Elis (8-7, 3-4 Ivy), who are still in search of their first Ivy road victory, face both the Tigers (14-5, 5-2) and the Quakers (10-8, 3-4) for the second time this season after hosting the pair earlier in October.
In the earlier matches, Yale upset the Quakers 3-1 but fell to Princeton 2-3 the next day.
Head coach Erin Appleman stressed the importance of the games against Penn and Princeton in determining the remainder of the season.
“Penn and Princeton are both difficult places to play,” Appleman said. “We can compete against both teams, which is what we have proven at home. We need to find a road win, though, which is why this is such a critical weekend for us.”
Yale will be looking for revenge against the Tigers, who stole a close five-game match from the Bulldogs earlier in the season.
Setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 — who was named to the Ivy League Honor Roll for her numbers against Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend — said her team is fired up and ready to face the Tigers on Friday.
“We worked really hard in practice this week to prepare for these games,” Becker said. “Right now, we just want to focus on playing as a team and doing everything we can to ensure we put forth our best performance.”
The Princeton matchup on Friday evening will be a tough battle at the net, as outside hitters Lauren Grumet, Alex Brown and Lauren Loban are all averaging over three kills per game for the Tigers.
Grumet currently holds the No. 2 slot in kills in the Ivy League with 3.84 per game. Princeton setter Jenny Senske currently ranks third in the Ivy League behind Becker with 11.25 sets per game.
The Tigers’ defense promises to be the tougher challenge to the Bulldogs this weekend.
“I think Princeton has the best defense in the conference,” Appleman said. “They dig some balls that other teams just aren’t getting to, and they have a tendency to just wear teams out.”
After defeating Penn once already this season, the Bulldogs should expect a strong outing on the Quakers’ end. While Yale took the Oct. 8 match 3-1, Penn won the first game, and the Quakers have won four of their last six contests since losing to the Bulldogs.
Among the Penn players Yale will need to defend against is outside hitter Cara Thomason, who is averaging 3.15 kills per game and leads the Ivy League in service aces with 35. Thomason’s 4.77 digs per game is also fifth best in the conference.
“Penn is going to be very physical at the net,” Appleman said. “They are not as experienced age-wise as Princeton, but their program has a lot of experience winning, and we will need to put forth a solid team effort in order to win on Saturday.”
Yale will look to staple players to step up and perform this weekend in order to pull out two tough wins. Players agreed that a team effort is needed to secure wins for Yale on Friday and Saturday.
“Everyone needs to do their own part in order for us to win,” Jana Freeman ’05 said. “When everyone does their job, then we do well. That is what needs to happen against Penn and Princeton.”
Freeman, who passed the 1,000 mark in kills against Dartmouth last Saturday, should be a major factor for the Bulldogs in the matches this weekend.
“We know we can beat both teams,” Freeman said. “If we play up to our level, then everything will take care of itself.”