Captain and libero Anja Perlebach ’07 successfully digs a ball up toward the net. Setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 gets under it and immediately shoots it off to Alexis Crusey ’10. The outside hitter leaps high above the net for a kill, pounding the ball into the ground.
This sort of precision and strength will play a large role in the volleyball team’s matches against Brown this weekend. With a talented group, the Bulldogs (5-4) could certainly take two wins off of Brown (3-8), though it might not come easy. As recently as last year, Yale’s final game and subsequent loss against Brown kept the Bulldogs away from the Ivy crown, leaving the Elis with a mixed record versus the Bears. But a few returning talents and new drive could give Yale an edge this weekend.
“I think this year we’ll be a lot better,” Perlebach said. “If we go out and play well, we could definitely win Friday and Saturday.”
The Elis are coming off a win in the Yale Classic, although they lost the last match of the tournament against Albany. Despite a pre-conference season with ups and downs, they see themselves as having a clean slate now, since Friday’s game will be Yale’s first match in the Ancient Eight.
Brown’s record is more shaky this season. But because of the strong Bears offense, they still have a chance of performing well in the Ivy League. The Elis have recognized this and have been taking it into consideration during practice.
“Their outside hitters are very strong, so we’ve been trying to prepare for that,” outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said. “Mostly, we’re working on controlling our game.”
Perlebach and other defensive specialists will play a significant role in helping to contain the Bears’ attacks. Recently, Perlebach moved into sixth place on the Yale all-time list for career digs, and she still has the rest of the season to rack up more.
“I definitely just want to keep moving up in the rankings,” she said. “I just want to kick as many of the girls off the list as I can.”
While the team is younger than in past years, the Elis’ newcomers are certainly not lacking in talent. Crusey, who was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week two weeks ago, averaged 4.5 kills and 3.2 digs per game over a series of three matches.
Crusey said she has both personal goals and objectives for the team.
“Obviously I want to win the league,” she said. “Personally, I would like to feel confident and go out and show that I am capable of playing well. I just want to help the team play.”
Other freshmen, such as Julia Maillander ’10 and Laurel Johnson ’10, are also contributing, and Perlebach said the youth are crucial to the team.
“While we may be a little bit younger, we have much more talent than we have had in past years,” Perlebach said. “We have lot of depth, and everyone on the team could play at any moment. The freshmen are definitely seeing playing time.”
The team would like to finish first in the Ivy League, especially after last year when it came in second to Cornell, just one game behind. In 2004, Yale was able to take the Ivy title and ultimately make it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
But the team seems to be focusing more on the game at hand than the league.
“We haven’t really talked long range at this point,” Farrell said. “We just want to beat Brown this weekend.”