Fresh off its record-breaking 22nd straight victory in the Ivy League conference, the Yale volleyball team (14–3, 8–0 Ivy) will take on a pair of revitalized rivals eager to overtake the Elis in the standings.
Tonight the Elis will take on the Big Green (10–10, 3–5). Dartmouth has won three of its last four matches, including a 3–2 decision against Harvard last Friday. Since losing to the Bulldogs in straight sets on Oct. 5, five of Dartmouth’s last six matches have gone to five sets.
In that last matchup, the Elis triumphed with a combination of aggressive offense and good passing. Yale recorded an impressive 53 kills and assisted on 51 of them. Setter Kelly Johnson ’16 said this will again be the key for the Bulldogs.
“Passing will be very important,” Johnson said. “As a team we work very hard to be strong defensively, and it has always been [a] key component to our success.”
On Saturday, the Elis will travel to Cambridge to take on the Crimson. Harvard (10–7, 5–3) has been busy flying up the Ivy League ranks since losing 3–0 to Yale on Oct. 4. On that night, Yale’s stingy defense limited the Cantabs to a dismal -0.033 hitting percentage and just 15 total kills.
Now Harvard is in second place, sporting a narrow lead over Penn and Brown, who are tied for third. Despite losing a five-set nailbiter against Dartmouth, the Crimson are in good shape. They had won their previous four matches in impressive fashion, dropping only two sets in that span.
“The Harvard-Yale rivalry always leads to a game that is very emotional and competitive,” Johnson said. “The fact that we’re the top two teams in the Ivy League will only heighten that intensity.”
Yale remains in sole possession of first place in the Ivy League as the only undefeated team in the conference. But the Elis fully recognize that much has changed since their last matchups with Dartmouth and Harvard, according to middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16.
“Both Harvard and Dartmouth have had a lot of success since the last time we played them,” Ebner said. “They’ve improved and will have confidence coming into these matches.”
On top of everything else, the Elis have to contend with themselves and the impressive record they have accumulated over the last two years. Despite dominating the Ivy League conference for the past two years, the Bulldogs remain adamant that they will not be distracted by their past success, said middle blocker McHaney Carter ’14.
“I don’t think that the team is really focused on things like consecutive wins or even our record in general,” Carter said. “It’s not about the past or the far future. We really try to focus on the match that is ahead of us.”
The Elis will play Dartmouth tonight at 7 p.m.