The laws of the court
Both teams line up facing the net, six girls on each side — one setter, two hitters and three defensive players — with three players standing in the front row and three in the back. Once the ball is served, the girls might change where they stand on the court, depending on the position they play best. The receiving team can only touch the ball three times before returning it to the other side. The first touch is usually a pass to the setter, the second a set for the hitter and the third a spike.
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Team A continues to serve until they lose a point, at which time they forfeit the ball to team B. The players rotate clockwise to a new position on the court. There is not a designated server on either team.
It ain’t over till it’s over
There are five games in a match, but the match is over when one team gets three wins. The first four games are played to 30 points and the fifth is played to 15. A team must win by two points.
Don’t stop believin’
The girls on the sidelines stand the entire game, cheering each other on to keep team morale high. One of the Elis’ most prominent cheers is one in which they all raise their hands and bring them down to the ground in unison to symbolize a successful block, or “the roof,” fan Emily Finn ’09 said.
Oh, those crazy kids
Gametime cheers keep the team united, but every player has her individual quirks. Ally Mendenhall ’09 always wears a yellow prewrap in her hair. Morgan Hume ’09 always tapes a black “Y” over her white ankle tape. On the bus, Julia and Lydia Mailander ’09 and Courtney Hall ’09 do crossword puzzles. Hume always picks the movies for the bus ride. At the end of every road match, a towel is stolen from the other school and presented to the game’s MVP.
The first day of practice every week begins with watching video in the coaches’ office. Players watch highlights from their previous game and videos of the upcoming opponents. This year, the coach started to make DVDs for the players to study between sessions.
The uniform consists of a spandex top, knee pads, long socks and super-short spandex. The kneepads are not required for play, but Yale players wear them to protect themselves from the hard gym floor.
We love twins
There are three sets of twins on the team: Maribeth Martens ’08 and Kristen Wilk ’09 both have twin brothers at other schools and, of course, there’s the Mailander pair.
Players interviewed said the Yale crowd is always better than those of the other Ivy teams. On Friday nights the gym is nearly packed, although when football is in town, Saturday games are less attended.
“We love the spectators, especially the rowdy fans,” Hall said. “It changes the entire atmosphere of the gym.”
Last year, hitter Alexis Crusey ’10 was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and made First Team All-Ivy. Setter Mendenhall was just named Ivy League Player of the Week and finished last year as Second Team All-Ivy. The team has special cheers for both girls. When Mendenhall serves an ace, everyone shouts “A-Men.” When Crusey spikes the ball, her team yells “Cruzzzzzeeeeee!”
The Bulldogs will face off against Columbia and Cornell in away games this weekend. As of right now, the Elis have set themselves up to finish in second place behind Princeton. But, if Princeton loses one of its upcoming games, Yale has a shot at first place. The league champ gets an automatic bid to NCAAs, the 64-team national championship tournament.