After sweeping Brown last Saturday, the Bulldogs will have their first doubleheader of the Ivy League season when they face Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend.
The Elis (7–3, 1–0 Ivy) will first match up against the Crimson (6–4, 1–0) on Friday evening before taking on the Big Green Saturday afternoon. Members of the team said that they were excited to play their Ivy foes, particularly archrival Harvard.
“We are always pumped to play Harvard,” setter Kelly Johnson ’16 said. “It’s such a longtime rivalry and it always gives us a boost of energy and motivation.”
Last year Harvard was just 5–10 coming into the match against the Elis. Yale, meanwhile, was in the middle of a historic undefeated Ivy season and came into the match having won its last four conference games. The Bulldogs used that momentum to defeat Harvard in straight sets.
Johnson had a phenomenal game, with 13 kills on .722 hitting percentage to go along with her 20 assists and nine digs. She committed no errors despite her 18 attack attempts. Outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 contributed nine kills and a match-leading 14 digs, while setter Kendall Polan ’14 led the team with 28 assists in addition to her 10 digs and six kills.
Harvard struggled to generate counterplay and fell behind in kills, assists, and digs by huge margins. The Crimson did, however, score the first six points in the second set and held a 12–4 lead before Yale went on a 13–2 run and left them behind. The Cantabs took the lead again in the final set, but eventually suffered their largest margin of defeat in the match, losing 25–15.
Harvard has not had a winning volleyball season since 2004-’05, when they went 15–10. Since then, the Crimson have endured hard times, including a brutal 3–21 record in 2005-’06.
“In previous years, Princeton and Penn have been our biggest rivals,” middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’15 said. “But this year, Harvard is much improved and they’re a really strong team. I think it’s going to be a really intense match.”
The Crimson will enter the match fresh off a sweep of Dartmouth; Harvard’s upgraded team suggests it might revitalize the famed Yale-Harvard rivalry. For first year players, the rivalry is particularly interesting.
“I think it’s really important to represent the Yale community and make our school proud,” libero Tori Shepherd ’17 said. “It’s fun to be a part of such a long-standing tradition.”
Dartmouth (7–6, 0–1) is coming off a disastrous 2–22 record last season. Despite the Big Green’s struggles, they competed hard against the Elis in last year’s matchup. After dropping the first two sets by double digits, the Big Green gave Yale a real battle in the third.
Johnson’s ninth kill tied the set at 20, but Dartmouth scored the next three points and never relinquished the lead, eventually winning by a narrow 25–22 margin. The Elis were able to come back strong, however, and took the final set by a score of 25–17.
Johnson barely missed a triple double again with 24 assists, 10 digs, and nine kills. Libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 led the team with an impressive 24 digs, while Rogers’ 14 kills were the highest in the match.
According to Ebner, the team’s focus during practice in the week prior to a double-header is usually on the first team. The Elis then rely on scouting reports to prepare for the second match. But this does not mean that they will overlook Dartmouth.
“Every team in the Ivy League is competitive and wants to win,” Shepherd said. “We approach every game with the determination to win and play our style [of] volleyball, regardless of the opposition.”
The Elis will play Harvard tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Payne Whitney Gym.