In its last home weekend of the 2004 season, the women’s volleyball team has a chance to settle the score against two Ivy league opponents and move one step closer to a conference title.
Yale (10-7, 5-4 Ivy) faces Dartmouth (5-15, 2-8) tonight at John J. Lee Amphitheater and Harvard (13-7, 8-2) tomorrow afternoon. The Bulldogs fell to both teams two weekends ago on the road, losing to Dartmouth 3-1, and getting swept by the Crimson 3-0.
After the disappointment of losing to both teams while in the heart of the Ivy race, the Elis are primed to take revenge on their home court.
“We are all very fired up to play Dartmouth and Harvard and show them how we can really play,” setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 said. “I know all of us are going to do everything that we possibly can to not have the same feeling we had leaving their gyms in defeat two weekend ago.”
Friday’s game against the Big Green will set the tone for the weekend and the rest of the season as the Bulldogs are still in the mix for an Ivy title. Head coach Erin Appleman said the focus right now is defending against some of Dartmouth’s more strategic attacks that caught the Elis off-guard last time.
“Dartmouth has a variety of quick attacks and misdirection, which are things we are not used to seeing,” Appleman said. “They also have a lot of freshmen who expect to win every time they play. Those are the biggest challenges that we will face against them.”
Outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said Yale defenders would be wary of a similar Crimson attack plan on Saturday as well.
“I think the most important aspect of both Harvard and Dartmouth’s game is their abilities to tip the ball and take our hitters out of the offense,” Farrell said. “We’ve put in a lot of time defending the tip, so I feel that it is something that we will be good at this weekend.”
The Elis will look to Becker — this week’s Ivy League Player of the Week — to be the director on the court. In the Bulldogs’ last two matches against Penn and Princeton, Becker combined for 134 assists and moved into second place for most career assists in Yale history with 2,753. Her 80 assists against Princeton was also a career-best for Becker.
“I am very pleased with the way Jackie played last weekend,” Appleman said. “She battled hard and ran a smart offense, and her continuing belief in the abilities of this team and her efforts to make her teammates perform better are admirable.”
Becker has also stepped up on the defensive end this season. With 190 digs, she is fourth best on Yale’s roster.
“Jacqueline played really well last weekend, not only in her setting but also in her defensive efforts,” Farrell said. “A lot of teams will attack the right back position due to the fact that most setters do not play defense, and with Jackie starting to dig more balls there, we have found much greater team success.”
While the Ivy title is still in the back of the Bulldogs’ minds, the focus seems to be on finishing the season strong.
“Our biggest goal for the rest of our season is to take care of our business and get better,” libero Anja Perlebach ’07 said. “Although the title is not a huge concern for us right now, finishing as high as we can is. We need to win all of our remaining matches and learn from the experiences we have left.”
Before the game on Saturday, Yale will honor the seniors on the team, captain Jana Freeman ’05 and middle blocker Lauren Burke ’05,
Appleman said she was proud of both Burke and Freeman for their efforts in 2004 and will look to them to lead the Bulldogs against the Big Green and Harvard this weekend.
“First, we need to focus on Dartmouth and take care of business at home right away,” Appleman said. “This weekend we have the opportunity to climb the ladder in the Ivy standings, and I hope the team is up for the challenge.”