Stiff league competition looms for Vball in N.Y.

In its past eight games, the women’s volleyball team has capitalized on its home-court advantage and extended its win streak to nine consecutive matches. Now it is time to see if the Elis can take their success on the road.

The Bulldogs (10-1, 1-0 Ivy) will face Columbia (2-9, 0-1) Friday night and Cornell (8-2, 1-0) Saturday afternoon on this weekend’s trip to the Empire State. Last weekend, the Elis closed out the non-conference portion of their season with a 3-0 win over Providence. This will be the first weekend the team faces two Ivy League opponents, as well as their first away games in over three weeks.

“I think the girls are kind of excited about hitting the road again and competing this weekend,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said. “Sometimes, it’s much easier to be traveling because your whole focus is the matches. When you’re home, there are lots of distractions.”

The Elis’ first matchup will be against the Lions. Last season, Yale won both matches against Columbia, dropping only one game to the league’s perennial bottom-dwellers. This year, however, the Bulldogs can anticipate a stronger squad from the Lions.

“They definitely have a developing program and every year they get better and better,” middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06 said. “I think it’ll be a great way for us to start off our weekend and hopefully continue to dominate in another competitive match.”

Among Columbia’s new talent is freshman outside hitter Amalia Viti, who is second on the team with 3.03 kills per game. Freshman libero Ashley Kim complements Viti on the defensive end with the shared team lead in digs per game with 2.76. The Lions’ most formidable weapon is sophomore hitter Natalie Gerling, a dominant player who holds the team lead in both kills and digs.

Saturday, the Elis will head upstate to face Cornell in what promises to be a closely contested rematch of last year’s Ivy League playoff final. In their last meeting, Yale slipped past Cornell 3-2 to snag the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the tournament. With a rivalry of nearly thirty years between the two schools, a tough contest is expected, especially since the Big Red is undefeated at home this season. The Elis, who came out on top in all three meetings with the Big Red last year, hold the marginal series advantage at 22-21.

“They’re definitely out to get us,” setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 said. “We beat them three times last year and they were all really close and intense matches, so I think we’re definitely the team to beat for them. I think this is one of the biggest games of our season because it’s at the beginning and it’s going to be a very competitive match. I think both teams want it really bad.”

By the numbers, Yale and Cornell are fairly evenly matched. Cornell leads the conference in hitting percentage and blocks, but Yale takes the top spot in assists, kills and digs. Big Red outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop is first in the league standings in kills per game with 5.24, but Becker, the ECAC and Ivy League Player of the Week, stands atop the assist per game standings with 12.32. Saturday’s match will come down to who can make better use of their respective strengths.

“I think passing and consistency are definitely two things we’re trying to work with all season long,” Becker said. “Cornell has a big block, so we’re going to have to mix things up and just try to execute everything that we’ve been practicing.”

Comments