Classic field offers challenge for vball

After effortlessly sweeping its first three home games at the Yale Invitational, the women’s volleyball team is hoping for a repeat performance at this weekend’s Yale Classic.

The Elis (5-1) will host Delaware (4-9) Friday night, followed by Iona (3-7) and Binghamton (6-7) on Saturday. This weekend’s matches are the Bulldogs’ last three non-conference games before opening their Ivy season against Brown Sept. 30. Yale will look to continue improving its focus and adaptability before conference competition gets underway.

“It will be great going into another home tournament this weekend because now I know to expect a great deal of support from the fans,” middle blocker Kristen Wilk ’09 said. “The teams we play this weekend will be more competitive than those of last weekend, so it should be exciting. I know we’re up for the challenge.”

This weekend’s matches, particularly Delaware and Iona, promise to give the Yale defense something to work for. Defense has traditionally been the Elis’ strength, but the Blue Hens and the Gaels enter the match with 13.1 and 12.8 kills-per-game respectively, approximately two kills more than the Elis’ average opponent. Not to be outdone, Binghamton brings some individual talent to the court; in the Bearcats’ last outing — a Sept. 17 victory over Niagara, 3-2 at the Cleveland State Invitational — outside hitter Katie Brody recorded 21 kills.

The Bulldogs will rely on libero Anja Perlebach ’07 and outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 to lead the defense against their opponents’ strong attacks. Perlebach has 5.88 digs per game, good for the seventh spot in the nation in that category. Farrell adds 82 digs on the season. As a team, Yale falls sixth in the national standings with 19.11 digs per game.

Working for the Bulldogs will be their home-court advantage. If last weekend was any indicator of attendance this season, the Elis can anticipate a large, rambunctious crowd of spectators come Friday night. Already accomplished hecklers, the crew and swimming teams honed their skills last weekend, and the Bulldogs are looking forward to their support.

“Last weekend was my first game action … I was really excited,” Allison Kaptur ’09 said. “It was fun to have somewhat rowdy fans. I never had that in high school. It’s great to have so many fans in the community.”

A trio of outside hitters — Shannon Farrell ’07, Nicole Perkins ’08 and Kali Nelson ’08 — have led the Yale attack so far this season. Combined, they average more than three kills per game and fellow outside hitter Courtney Hall ’09 adds a sky-high .550 hitting percentage to the offensive mix.

The Elis will look for freshmen to be major contributors in this weekend’s play. Hall is fourth on the team in digs, with 38 on the season and Wilk is fifth in kills with 35. Also vying for playing time after a breakout performance last weekend will be setter Ally Mendenhall ’09, who had 35 assists in just two games.

Overall, the Bulldogs are looking to improve on their four-game win streak and get some more valuable experience under their belts before starting to face off against conference foes.

“We’re always excited to play at home,” Farrell said. “But this weekend is going to have much tougher competition than last weekend so it should be a lot of fun to watch and play.”

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