As the women’s volleyball team hits the road for its final away games against Cornell and Columbia, its postseason hopes lie very much in limbo. After winning their last four Ivy games, the Bulldogs (12-7, 7-4 Ivy) are tied for third in the Ancient Eight with Princeton (16-7, 7-4) and remain two games back from co-leaders Harvard (14-8, 9-3) and Cornell (15-7, 9-3) with just three games left to play.
The Elis travel to New York today to face Cornell at 7 p.m. in Newman Arena. They will then head to Manhattan to take on Columbia (3-21, 1-11) tomorrow afternoon to wrap up their 2004 road campaign.
After trouncing the Crimson 3-0 last Saturday in New Haven, the Bulldogs feel very optimistic about their chances this weekend to lock down two much-needed wins.
“Going into this weekend, we are feeling pretty confident about our abilities to compete after what we showed in last weekend’s matches,” outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said. “We all know what we have to accomplish, and everyone is just focused on playing our best and winning.”
Standing in the way of Yale and an Ivy title is Cornell, who is enjoying wins in five of its last six games. While the Cagers dropped a surprising match to Penn 0-3 last Friday, they came back to beat Princeton 3-1 Saturday to maintain their league lead with Harvard.
The Big Red’s biggest weapon is three-time Ivy League Player-of-the-Week Elizabeth Bishop, who with 13 double-doubles already this season, is one of the top outside hitters in the Ivy League. Bishop currently ranks 12th in the nation in kills per game with 5.24, and her numbers, combined with Cornell’s league-best blocking numbers (2.96 bpg), will leave the Bulldogs with their hands full.
“We are going to do whatever we can on our side and just hope for the best,” middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06 said. “We have been preparing all week for Cornell, and there is a great recognition of the amount of teamwork that will go into winning this weekend. Everyone understands what she can do to make us better, and it is sincerely a team effort.”
Yale will try and repeat the level of play it demonstrated earlier this season against Cornell, at which time the Elis defeated the Big Red 3-2 in a hard fought match.
Friday’s match promises to be equally charged, as both teams are fighting for their first Ivy League championship in over 10 years, as well as an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
Columbia will be an entirely different story. The Lions’ only Ivy League victory this year came against Dartmouth two weekends ago, and they fell to the Elis 0-3 in the first match up between the two teams back in October.
The Bulldogs’ biggest challenge Saturday, according to players, will be to maintain an intensity similar to that they will carry into Friday’s game against Cornell.
“Columbia simply has a lot of fire,” libero Anja Perlebach ’07. “They are a young, excited team that has potential to be very good. We need to play a solid match and maintain a high level of play throughout the match.”
All in all, the Bulldogs seem ready for their biggest challenge yet this season. Players agreed their best approach is taking each game one at a time and focusing on the execution of the basics. The rest, they hope, will take care of itself.
“As a whole, we are definitely at the top of our game right now,” middle blocker Lauren Burke ’05 said. “We all have this incredible energy and anticipation to play this weekend. While we’re all very excited about the possibilities of an Ivy title, we also realize that we need to focus on taking care of what we have control over.”