With the volleyball team’s post-season hopes likely put to rest after a heartbreaking loss to Cornell last weekend, a weaker team might have lost its drive to win. But this weekend is the Elis’ last homestand of the season, and they will not be leaving Payne Whitney without a fight.
“We obviously had a devastating loss last weekend, so the true character of our team will show this weekend in our ability to bounce back,” setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 said. “This season is far from over and the best thing we can do is to take the pain from last weekend and use it to make sure we play our hearts out and never put ourselves in that situation again.”
The Bulldogs (16-3, 7-2 Ivy) face off against Princeton (14-6, 5-4) Friday night before taking on Penn (8-12, 5-4 Ivy) Saturday afternoon. The Elis faced the Quakers and Tigers on the road Oct. 21 and 22, respectively, and swept both matches. The Elis’ penultimate weekend of conference play this season will be their final chance to compete in John J. Lee Amphitheater until next year.
“I think we’re all very excited for these two competitive matches,” defensive specialist Maribeth Martens ’08 said. “It’s our last home weekend in front of a great crowd, so we really want to play well and prove that Yale volleyball isn’t done yet.”
Princeton will come to New Haven hot off of a record-setting performance against Dartmouth. Junior libero Jenny McReynolds played the best match of her career, recording 54 digs in four sets. The mark is the highest in NCAA play this season and is the second-best record for a four-set match in NCAA history.
But McReynolds seems to have trouble with Yale’s hitters, most notably middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06 and outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07, who combined for over half of the Elis’ kills in their last meeting with the Tigers. The Bulldogs averaged a .376 hitting percentage over the three sets and the Tigers had just 33 digs in the entire match, with 16 coming from McReynolds.
The Eli defense, anchored by libero Anja Perlebach ’07 and strengthened by Martens and Ally Mendenhall ’09, will need to be in top form this weekend. The Tigers also boast a talented pair of freshman hitters in Parker Henritze and Lindsey Ensign. Against Dartmouth, Henritze had a match-high 22 kills and Ensign added 20 of her own to boost Princeton to a win.
Yale’s attack may face more of a challenge against Penn, which had 62 digs against the Bulldogs when they last met. Elizabeth Hurst and Laura Black shared the defensive responsibility for the Quakers with 16 digs each, followed closely by Cara Thomason with 13.
But the Quakers have struggled with their offense so far this season, and the Bulldogs should be able to capitalize on that weakness. Penn falls in the bottom half of the Ivy League in every offensive statistical category.
“We’ve worked hard every time we step on the court in practice and we’ll continue to work and play hard until the very end,” Martens said. “Princeton and Penn have a lot of talent, so we know it’ll be a battle from start to finish.”
In addition to wanting to end the season on a good note, Lopes said she is looking forward to one more opportunity for the team to share its energy and excitement with its fans.
“For my last home weekend of my senior year, I am hoping we will get a great crowd and play really well for them,” Lopes said. “Our fans have grown so much since my freshman year, and I want to play one more time in front of my home crowd and share some wins with them.”