As the women’s volleyball team heads to Washington, D.C. this weekend for the Georgetown Classic, the Elis will look to improve upon last year’s successes, which brought them an Ivy League crown and a NCAA appearance.

The Bulldogs face host team Georgetown (2-4) Friday in the Elis’ season opener, then play Ball State (3-3) and Central Connecticut (3-0) on Saturday. The Elis, who had no preseason scrimmages or matches, are anxious to begin their season.

“We’ve been working on a lot of things in the gym,” captain Christy Paluf ’06 said. “Once you play for the first time, you see what you need to work on for the year and your strengths and weaknesses.”

For head coach Erin Appleman, the Bulldogs have two major concerns this weekend.

“Our biggest challenge right now is finding leadership and a consistent level of play,” Appleman said. “We’ve been up and down in practices.”

Yale’s first four games are on the road, but the travel is anything but daunting to the Bulldogs. Paluf is looking to the road games to help the team grow closer and build chemistry.

This weekend will be the first collegiate matches for the Bulldogs’ six freshmen. The new Elis, whose height and talent the Elis are hoping to capitalize upon immediately, will join several seasoned players, including All-Ivy outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07, All-Northeast Region honorable-mention setter Jacqueline Becker ’06, and Anja Perlebach ’07, who holds Yale’s record for digs (522).

Georgetown will enter Friday’s match with six games already under its belt. The Hoyas are on a four-game losing streak, most recently dropping a home game to Towson, 3-1, Sept. 6. Appleman sees Georgetown’s relative experience as a potential concern for the Elis, who are as of yet untried in competition.

“I think the tournament is going to present a lot of challenges,” Appleman said. “You worry about the kids being nervous.”

But the team appears to be confident about where it stands. The Elis hope to play solid defense, Yale’s traditional strength according to Paluf, and the freshmen will look to add to the Bulldogs’ offense.

“Compared to last year, I feel like we’re in good shape,” Becker said. “Everyone came back in great shape and ready to compete.”

Georgetown is not the only tough competition the Elis will see this weekend. Ball State, which has appeared in the NCAA tournament four times in the last 10 years, enters the tournament on a three-game losing streak after opening its season 3-0. Central Connecticut has won all three of its matches this season, and outside hitter Jacqui Jackson recently received regional player of the week honors for leading the Blue Devils to the Hartford Tournament title.

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