If there is one thing the Yale volleyball team cannot do, it is take the foot off the gas. After clinching the Ivy League title for the fourth year in a row last weekend, they have seemingly nothing left to prove. But this weekend against Princeton and Penn, you can count on the Elis to compete like they always do.
Though their conference-record winning streak is broken and they have secured their ticket to the NCAA tournament, setter Kelly Johnson ’16 said the Elis (17–4, 11–1 Ivy) still have a reason to compete.
“We don’t want to lose to anyone,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to beat every team that we play. We don’t want to give Penn or Princeton the feeling that they have the ability to beat us.”
Tonight the Elis will take on the Tigers (9–13, 5–7 Ivy). In their last matchup on Oct. 12, Yale protected its home court with a 3–1 victory. Princeton surprised the Bulldogs by taking the first set 25–21, but captain Kendall Polan ’14 took over the game with her serving and playmaking to lead the Elis to victory. Yale won the next three sets in dominating fashion by an average margin of 10 points.
Princeton is currently in fifth place in the conference, fresh off a 3–2 victory at Dartmouth. The Elis know they are the team to beat in the Ivy League, but they also know that they cannot overlook the Tigers, according to outside hitter Erica Reetz ’14.
“Penn and Princeton have always been tough teams in my Yale career,” Reetz said. “We will come out this weekend with the same intensity and competitive edge that we brought to every Ivy match this season.”
After their bout against Princeton, the Elis will travel to Philadelphia for their match against the Quakers. Penn (14–9, 8–4 Ivy) has won its last six contests, including an impressive 3–2 decision over Harvard last Saturday. They are tied with the Crimson for second place in the Ivy League.
In the last head-to-head between Yale and Penn on Oct. 11, the Elis extended their winning streak to four games, but not without a fight from the Quakers. After dropping the first two sets early, Penn challenged Yale in the second half of the match. The Quakers held a 10-point lead midway through the third set, but had to deal with an incredible 14–4 run by Yale that tied the game at 22. Penn did not wither under the Elis’ onslaught, however, and battled back to win the set 27–25. In the fourth and final set, the Bulldogs rode an eight-kill, three-assist performance by Johnson to victory.
With the end of the season just around the corner, the Elis will now look toward the NCAA tournament. They may not be favored to win, but Johnson said the team will welcome the opportunity to test its abilities.
“It’s always fun to be the underdog,” she said. “No one knows what to expect from you. You have nothing to lose. Whoever we play, we can just go out there and just leave everything on the court.”
A national title may be out of reach even for this Ivy League juggernaut, but as the Elis have proven time and time again, their main goal is to improve as a team, regardless of their record.
“I want us to play at a level that we can bring to the postseason, a level that we can be proud of,” libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 said. “Most of all I want us to get better and have fun while we do.”
First serve against Princeton will take place tonight at 7 p.m.