Last night at 6:45, Yale’s history-making women’s volleyball team crowded around a television at the Ray Tompkins House to watch the announcement of the field of 64 for the Elis’ first-ever NCAA tournament. To their surprise, players learned they could look forward to a home game for the first two rounds.

This Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the John J. Lee Amphitheater, the Bulldogs (17-7) will face Albany (27-6), another team new to the tournament. The Great Danes have won 21 of their last 22 matches; the team won its spot by taking the America East league title. The winner of that night’s match will go on to face either No. 4 seed Minnesota (32-6) or Long Island (28-4) the next day, once again at Yale.

Team captain Jana Freeman ’05 said the Bulldogs were feeling energized.

“We are just so excited,” Freeman said. “It’s amazing that we have the chance to play in the NCAAs in the first place.”

Asked about facing Albany at home, Freeman said it was excellent news.

“It’s an incredible opportunity that we get to host an NCAA tournament,” she said. “I was excited because I thought we were going to be playing one of the top 10 seeds. This is a team we can definitely compete with.”

A home game may be a particular advantage for Yale because its home crowds have been especially large and energetic, middle blocker Lauren Burke ’05 said.

“Throughout the season we’ve had an awesome fan base,” Burke said. “We’ve had a really good turnout every game. The fans really help us with heckling.”

Libero Anja Perlebach ’07 said the prospect of playing for the team’s fans made the announcement all the better.

“We were excited when we thought we were going to get to travel somewhere, but now we’re even more excited about being able to play in front of our home crowd,” Perlebach said.

By the time Thursday rolls around, it will have been almost two weeks since the Bulldogs’ last game, a nail-biting 3-2 victory over Cornell that secured them a spot in the tournament. Despite the long break, Burke said, the team is as focused as it ever has been.

“It’s tough having a break for Thanksgiving, but everyone’s so excited,” she said. “Everyone’s so focused. It’s not going to be a cakewalk [for Albany].”

Team members are universally ecstatic about Thursday, but they will not let the news about their opponents affect their playing, Freeman said.

“It only matters what’s on our side of the net, not their side,” she said.

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