With most of the Ivy League’s best competition behind them, the volleyball team is looking to cruise through its last weekend road trip of the season.
The Elis’ weekend matchups will feature two conference bottom-dwellers: Dartmouth (11-11, 4-8 Ivy) on Friday night and Harvard (3-19, 0-12) on Saturday afternoon. Dartmouth’s only league wins this season have come against Harvard and Columbia, while Harvard remains winless in Ancient Eight play. Though both the Big Green and the Cantabs should be easy competition for the Bulldogs, the Elis (18-3, 9-2) will have to be careful not to let down their guard in the face of such mediocre competition.
“We can’t take any weekend for granted,” libero Anja Perlebach ’07 said. “Any team can play well on any given night, and any team can play badly. We just have to play our best game even against Harvard, who doesn’t have a win this season, because they have nothing to lose. We’re the team that has something to lose this weekend.”
The Bulldogs beat both Harvard and Dartmouth at home Oct. 14 and 15, respectively. Even though defensive standout Perlebach was sidelined with a sprained ankle, the Elis did not give up a game all weekend and held the Crimson and the Big Green to an average hitting percentage of .044.
Last year’s Harvard-Dartmouth road trip, which came in the first half of the season, was a different story for the Elis. The Bulldogs went into the weekend with a winning record in the Ivy League and came out 3-4, leaving them struggling to get back on top for the rest of the season. But this year, the Elis are winding down a very successful season, and already have nine conference wins under their belts.
“Every weekend we focus on getting better, and this weekend, even though it’s the end of the season, we still have our program to improve,” outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said. “Everyone’s going to try and get better and work on fundamental things.”
Setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 powered the Elis past Dartmouth with 39 assists and 12 digs, while Farrell and middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06 each tallied 13 kills in the win. Against the Cantabs, Becker had another double-double (33 assists, 11 digs), and outside hitter Courtney Hall ’09 had eight kills and 12 digs. The Elis did not allow the Crimson to end a single game less than six points behind the Bulldogs.
“I think Dartmouth is a solid team,” Perlebach said. “Everyone on their team contributes pretty equally. They don’t have an outside hitter or a middle hitter they rely on all the time. They rely on the whole team, which is even harder to prepare for. It’s a lot harder to focus on an entire team.”
Harvard’s most recent match was a 3-2 loss to Columbia on the road. Former Ivy League Rookie of the Year Laura Mahon had 28 kills and 20 digs, and fellow outside hitter Kathryn McKinley added another 19 kills and 15 digs, but their efforts were not enough to carry a lagging Crimson team. Harvard let the match slip out of its hands as Columbia took the final 10 points of the match unanswered to defeat the Crimson yet again.
“You have to be very ready for playing a team like Harvard because you know they’re always out for a win,” Lopes said. “And you don’t want to be the team that gives them that win. They definitely have the potential to be a really strong, competitive [team], and we just have to make sure we’re playing our best when we play them so they don’t get a win on us.”
Last weekend, the Big Green managed to put up a bit of a fight against Ivy League leader Cornell. Though Dartmouth eventually fell, 1-3, the Big Green took a competitive second game from the Big Red. Led by freshman libero Cecily Kaya, with 26 digs on the match, the Dartmouth defense held Cornell’s normally potent attack to a -.020 hitting percentage en route to their 30-26 victory. The Big Red only outhit the Big Green, who were led by freshman outside hitter Jess Thomas, by three kills over the four sets (58-55).
The Dartmouth-Harvard road trip will be the Elis’ last two-game weekend of conference play. The Elis will travel to Brown (10-12, 7-4) on Wednesday night for the final game of their season.
“There’s always emotions at the end of the season, especially being so close to the seniors,” Farrell said. “Our team’s so close, and it’s really becoming true that our season’s ending and our time together is ending.”