After coming out of last weekend’s Maine Invitational with two wins in three close matches, the volleyball team, off to its best start in five seasons, should be able to relax this weekend at the Wagner Tournament. Or so one would think.
The Bulldogs (5-1) face three struggling teams this weekend in Staten Island, but they are preparing for them with the same intensity as they did for some of last weekend’s powerhouses.
Despite the Yale coaches’ concern, the Bulldogs should clean up Sunday against Wagner (1-8) and Morgan State (4-10), with their only real challenge coming against Stony Brook (4-8) on Saturday at 5 p.m. Unlike their back-to-back matches last Friday, the Bulldogs will have plenty of time to recover between their matches on Sunday, scheduled for 11a.m. and 5p.m.
“I think this weekend’s competition is just as challenging as last weekend’s,” said head coach Erin Appleman during practice Wednesday.
And she meant it.
Before each of the Bulldogs’ preseason tournaments, Appleman has said that her strategy going in is to “take it one game at a time” to ensure that no opponent is overlooked.
New assistant coach David Foster said Appleman’s attentiveness to each opponent’s scouting report has been, and will be, a key to the team’s success.
“We take every team on the same level,” he said. “Other teams wouldn’t look at tape of a team of lower caliber.”
While this weekend’s opponents seem to be “lower caliber,” it’s understandable that Appleman and Foster expect a competitive match from Stony Brook. Despite the Seawolves’ losing record, they enter the Wagner Tournament with a three-game winning streak after a challenging early-season schedule.
The winning streak began with a convincing victory over Army. While the Seawolves swept the Black Knights, the Bulldogs defeated the Black Knights after four close games in their third match this season. In the victory over Army, Seawolf setter Julie Zuf put up an impressive 38 assists, averaging nearly 13 assists per game for the match.
Foster also respects the Stony Brook squad because he played with one of its assistant coaches at Quincy University.
“Their coaches will have them ready,” said Foster, who led the NCAA in digs per game as a senior in 1996.
Although Appleman may have convinced herself out of necessity that the two teams could pose a challenge, it’s hard to believe that host Wagner will put up much of a fight. The Seahawks just ended a 41-match losing streak with a comeback win over Lafayette in five games. The streak dated back to 2001, and it appears the program still has plenty of rebuilding to do.
The Bulldogs will face Morgan St. in their final match. Before wins over small D.C.-area rivals Hampton, Coppin St. and Loyola, the Bears were shutout in seven straight matches.
Still, the Yale coaches have instilled a strong ethic of preparation in their players.
Setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 said the Bulldogs will need such focus if they are to have a chance at earning an Ivy championship.
“We need to keep it on the same level we’re on right now,” Becker said. “We’re so fired up.”
Becker has an extra reason to eagerly anticipate the upcoming contests: with 15 assists this weekend, Becker will move past Alison Lungstrum ’04 to be Yale’s sixth all-time leader in career assists.