Every sport has its signature game-changing play: a home run in baseball, a slam dunk in basketball, an interception in football. On the volleyball court, a successful block can turn what looks to be a sure kill for one team into a victory for the other.

Volleyball captain Carissa Abbott ’02 possesses that big-play ability.

The 6-foot California native has been a strong blocker since she joined the Bulldogs. Last year, Abbott placed second in the Ivy League with 104 blocks, and finished fourth with a .294 hitting percentage — the difference between kills and errors divided by attempts. As a sophomore, Abbott burst onto the Ivy scene with a .314 hitting percentage and a league-best 129 blocks, which was the fourth-best single-season output in Yale history.

As a result of her achievements, she has been named second-team All-Ivy the past two years.

“Carissa has great leaping ability,” head coach Peg Scofield said. “She is very aggressive on attack and blocking.”

And Abbott has more than just a knack for elevating above the net. Her speed, reaction time and on-court awareness give her a set of skills few players can match.

“I may not be the strongest player on the court, but I’m pretty aware of what’s going on,” Abbott said. “It really doesn’t matter how you get it done, you just want the ball to hit the floor.”

So far this season, Abbott’s performance has not fallen from previous years. Through eight matches, Abbott leads the team with 3.24 kills per game and 50 total blocks, and she is second on the team with a .273 hitting percentage.

Abbott’s play this year is particularly important to the Bulldogs’ campaign because the team lacks depth in the middle of the court.

“This year she has really stepped up since she is one of only two middle hitters on the team,” Candace Green ’02 said. “Since she is recognized in the league as a great player, she is often targeted by our opponents. But in spite of all this pressure she has done a great job in her role as middle blocker.”

While league opponents are targeting Carissa, Carissa is targeting one particular opponent herself. During her four years as an Eli, she has defeated all but one team in the Ivy League — Princeton.

“One personal goal that I have is that I want to beat every team in the league at least once,” Abbott said. “Princeton is the only team we have not beaten.”

Abbott hopes to lead the Bulldogs to victories against the rest of the Ivy League as well. Continuing her on- and off-court will be central to the Elis’ chances for victory.

“Carissa really welcomed the role of captain,” Scofield said. “She’s know what it takes and she’s earned it.”

Green agreed with Scofield.

“She is good at setting goals for the team and pushing us to attain them,” Green said. “She has done a great job of uniting all of the players and making a cohesive unit.”

Abbott and the Bulldogs continue their quest for an Ivy League title when they face Brown at the Brown Invitational on Friday.