After a trip to the Pentagon and matches against two national contenders, the volleyball team (6-3, 0-0 Ivy) will finally start its Ivy League conference games this weekend against Brown University.
Since the start of the season, the team has had ample opportunity to grow and adapt to their new players. They have undergone a rigorous preseason schedule, courtesy of head coach Erin Appleman, who had her team play against some of the best schools in the country.
Notably, the Elis played against the top volleyball team in the nation – Penn State – and they did it on PSU’s home floor.
“I think we really proved to ourselves that we’re capable of playing high level volleyball, that we’re capable of playing with those teams,” setter Kelly Johnson ’16 said. “Those games were big turning points for us because they really improved out competitive spirits. We’re as good as we think we should be.”
The hallmark of the Elis is their team chemistry. Now, with a freshman class ranked among the nation’s best, the Elis hope to stage a repeat of last year’s undefeated season (18-0 Ivy).
“I think we’ve progressed a lot,” Johnson said. “We’ve been working really hard and the cohesiveness of the team has really grown. We’ve all really improved as a whole.”
Brittani Steinberg ’17 has already made an impact. In her debut against Missouri, she led the team with 15 kills on phenomenal .500 hitting. Steinberg is now third on the team in kills and kills per set.
As it did last year, Yale’s Ivy League season will start against Brown.
The Bulldogs were victorious in both matches against the Bears last year, beating them by a score of 3-1 in Providence and routing them in straight sets at home. Both matches, however, were very competitive.
In the road victory against Brown last September, two of the four sets went to sudden death, with Yale taking both by scores of 28-26 and 27-25. The Elis got a strong contribution from captain Kendall Polan ’14, who posted a 10 kill, 31 assist, 20 dig triple double. Johnson also made an impact with her 13 kills and 24 assists.
By the time Brown visited Yale a month later, the Bulldogs were in the middle of an historic season. They entered the match having won their last eight bouts, giving up only three total sets in that span.
This time the Elis were victorious in straight sets, but the match was no cakewalk. Neither team hit above .200 and they combined for 44 errors through three sets.
Brown (4-6, 0-0 Ivy) has struggled so far this season and will come into New Haven having lost its last bout against Temple in straight sets.
“I wouldn’t say [Brown’s record] matters that much at all,” Polan said. “Brown has always played really well against us. It’s never been a game we’ve easily won.”
The team’s focus, as Johnson said, will instead be on their side of the court: playing Yale volleyball.
“Brown’s a really strong team,” Polan reiterated. “It’ll be a good match.”
The game starts on Saturday 5 p.m., and the fans are encouraged to wear pink to support Dig Pink, the fight against breast cancer.