Volleyball season is officially underway as the women’s volleyball team heads to Washington, D.C. this weekend to participate in the second annual Service Academy Challenge. The tournament, which is played within the Pentagon, brings together U.S. service academies with other schools from around the country.
On their first road trip of the season, the Elis (2–1) will be matched up against the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and, for the first time since 2007, Stanford.
The Cardinal (3–2), ranked eighth in the nation, posted a 25–4 record last year and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. They return all six of last year’s starters and are projected to contend for a national title once again this year. With a combination of height and depth — the team’s front line averages 6’ 2” — Stanford runs an offense that averages nearly 15 kills per set to go along with a stifling defense that averages over 17 digs and almost three blocks per set. Though the Cardinals have dropped two games already this season, the losses came against powerhouses No. 2 Texas and No. 5 Florida.
The last time Yale faced off against Stanford, in the 2007 Yale Volleyball Classic, the Bulldogs fell in straight sets.
The Elis have already had some experience this season going up against a taller team when they faced Missouri last weekend at the Yale Invitational.
“Going up against them is similar to going up against Missouri,” outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 said. “They’re very big, so we’ll have to be aggressive and take some chances on offense. Passing will also be very important.”
Although the Elis fell 3–1 to the Tigers, they were far from outclassed. Yale took the second set of the match, 25–15, which was the largest margin of victory in any game that Yale played in the tournament.
One thing the Bulldogs are not lacking is confidence. They may be appear to be outmatched against Stanford, but it will not stop them from competing.
“We’re looking forward to playing them and having the opportunity to put our skills to the test,” libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 said.
While Army and Air Force are both unranked, they have played four and six more matches, respectively, than the Elis have. This extra practice might make them dangerous, but it also provides more opportunities for scouting them, according to Rogers.
Yale and Army last met during the 2011 Yale Classic, when the Elis eked out a 3–2 victory over the Black Knights. The Bulldogs fell behind 0–2, but stormed back to take the next three sets, including a nail-biting 15–13 win in the fifth set. McHaney Carter ’14 led the Elis with 13 kills in the match, while Kendall Polan ’14 recorded an impressive 45 assists. Polan and Rogers also recorded double-doubles in the victory, which completed Yale’s perfect 3–0 tournament record.
Above all, this road trip is another opportunity for the team to grow.
“Playing on the road always presents more adversity than playing at home,” Rudnick said. “This first road trip will hopefully get out some of the kinks that away games present.”
The Elis face Stanford at 10 a.m. tomorrow.