After being named Ivy League Rookie of the Year at the end of last season, volleyball setter Kendall Polan ’14 is wasting no time contributing to her team’s early season success. In last weekend’s Yale Invitational, Polan received co-MVP for the tournament and was named Ivy League Player of the Week this week. Polan spoke with the News about the team’s early season success, beach volleyball, and new additions to the team.
Q: First of all, congratulations on being named Ivy League Player of the Week. Is there anything in particular over the summer that you worked on to prepare for this season?
A: Nothing specific. I live in San Diego so I played a lot of beach volleyball. There are only two people on the court for beach volleyball instead of six, so that makes a huge difference in the game. However, I am playing a different role than I did last year … because this year we are running a 5–1 (there’s only one center on the court at all times, and you rotate positions still) instead of a 6–2. So this year I am only setting instead of setting and hitting.
Q: The team certainly did well this weekend with wins against Boston College and Colgate. How did the team prepare for the Yale Invitational?
A: During pre-season we did a lot of scouting of the teams we were going to play. We watched film on them, and we would try and figure out how we would best compete against all three teams we played. I think we took a lot away from our loss against Utah, because they’re a really tall team. That was different from what we’re used to. They’re also part of the Pac-12. They’re probably ranked higher than any of us are now, but it’s not necessarily that they are better. Most of us can compete with them. We hung in there. It was a good learning experience. The freshman totally stepped up and played like they’ve been playing for a while.
Q: What do you think you’ll take away from the tournament in preparing for the weeks ahead?
A: We’re going to be preparing for our upcoming games similarly. We’ll probably be scouting those teams again to try and figure out how we’ll beat them. As a center I have to figure out how to set the ball even more off the net or faster. It’s harder with the tall teams to move as quickly. Sometimes the offense has to be changed a little bit. We have to work more on the specific placement rather than just hitting as hard as we can.
Q: The Ivy League competition doesn’t start for a few weeks, and you will not be back for a home game until you face New Hampshire on September 16. What do you hope to get out of these upcoming tournaments?
A: I think it’s just to figure out who plays what position best and get used to how the other girls on your team play and what kind of shots each girl likes to hit. The Ivy League title is definitely our goal.
Q: I know several girls left the team last year, leaving Yale with a team nearly half of the size of Penn’s. What are the advantages and disadvantages to carrying such a small team?
A: I’d say the disadvantages are having to keep going and going during practice without a break. The advantage is that we are a very close team. We don’t have any drama, and everyone gets along super well. It’s also nice because everyone knows each other.
Q: What is your take so far on this year’s freshmen? What do you think they contribute to the team?
A: There are five freshmen. They all played in a really high level in high school and club. They are all coming from experience, and they all know how to compete. They have a lot of energy. It’s nice having experienced freshmen. They deserved to play this weekend, and they got to play.
Q: You are also a very young team. What affects does that have on the team dynamic?
A: I don’t think it really has an impact on the dynamic. The experience helps, and all the girls who are playing have a lot of confidence. Also, Taylor Cramm ’12 is a great captain. She’s always on top of everything and has one of the best attitudes on the court. No one fights or complains.
Q: Having played a year now for the Bulldogs, how does your experience here differ from volleyball in California?
A: I think college volleyball is different than high school volleyball. It’s a lot more about scouting and figuring out how to strategize against the other team. It’s less about sheer skill and more strategizing. It makes you think more while you’re playing. How can I better our team by doing something, even if it won’t get an immediate point?
Q: You have a new assistant coach, Amy DeGroot. What does she bring to the team?
A: She was an All-American at the University of San Diego so she really knows what she’s talking about. She plays with us and is really competitive. She’s good to practice with.