Though Constitution State rival University of Connecticut may be a familiar foe for the women’s volleyball team, the Elis will face a revamped Husky squad tonight in Storrs.
Since Yale (1-1) and UConn (4-2) last met in 2003, Connecticut has made significant changes to its program. The Huskies, who are riding a tournament victory at last weekend’s UConn Toyota Classic, boast a new coaching staff and several talented underclassmen. The Elis, coming off a split weekend in Washington, D.C., hope to use this match as a measure of where the team is at this point in the season.
“It’s still early in the season,” outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said. “So, by playing different kinds of teams, it allows us to see what we really have to focus on in practice so that we can be fully prepared for the Ivy League when it starts.”
Yale has only played two games so far this season — a win over Georgetown and a loss to Ball State last weekend at the Georgetown Classic. Farrell and libero Anja Perlebach ’07 led the weekend campaign. Farrell had 22 kills and 37 digs on the weekend, and Perlebach added 45 digs.
The tournament allowed the Elis to hone the skills they practiced during the preseason.
“I feel like playing Georgetown and Ball State were great preparation for playing UConn,” outside hitter Nicole Perkins ’08 said. “It gave us better insight into our weaknesses and gave us time to prepare for this and clean up our game.”
Yale played UConn twice in 2003, and the Huskies dealt the Elis two of just three non-conference losses the Bulldogs suffered the entire season. In both matches, Yale fell in straight sets. Since then, UConn has moved Holly Strauss to the head coaching position and added assistant coach Tim O’Brien to the program. Though both coaches have had relatively short careers on the sidelines, Strauss and O’Brien possess an abundance of on-court experience as recent college players at their fingertips.
The Huskies have also picked up some strong recruits in the last two years. Sade Chambers is a sophomore outside hitter who started all of the Huskies’ games during her freshman year. Chambers finished the season third on the team in hitting percentage (0.283). This year, UConn added outside hitter Sarah Singer, a two-time All-State player from Wisconsin, to its roster. Singer already has logged playing time in 14 games, and has 31 kills and 7 blocks on the season.
“I think they’re a very powerful team,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said. “They block very well and they’re a good serving team. Those are going to be their strengths. They’re a very offensively-minded team.”
The Huskies, who opened their season a week before the Bulldogs, have had that extra time to improve their play. Perkins said that competing against teams who have already played several matches puts the comparatively green Elis at a disadvantage.
“Teams are coming in with more team chemistry than we have,” she said. “They’ve had more time on the court than we have and they know who their go-to players are. That’s probably the only disadvantage we have going in; other than that I think our skills are where they should be.”