While going on the road can pose a certain challenge, the volleyball team is poised to walk into the Crimson and Big Green abyss this weekend and to walk out with two victories. In doing so, the women will keep their record perfect in the Ivy League.
The Elis (9-4, 4-0 Ivy) will face Harvard (8-7, 2-2) on Friday night and then head north for a game in Hanover against Dartmouth (8-6, 2-2 Ivy) on Saturday afternoon. The back-to-back road affair represents the first for the team in Ancient Eight play.
The Bulldogs were a perfect 4-0 against the two opponents last season, with a 3-0 win in Cambridge and a 3-1 win in New Haven against the Cantabs along with a 3-1 win in Hanover coupled with a 3-0 win at home over Dartmouth.
The group enters with momentum and growing confidence after knocking off Columbia and Cornell last weekend in impressive fashion.
“We’re very pleased with our performance,” middle blocker Alexis Crusey ’10 said. “But we can’t let that get to our heads. We have to keep everything in the moment.”
The Bulldogs are confident they can duplicate their home successes on the road this weekend. Head coach Erin Appleman even recognizes some benefits of leaving familiar surroundings.
“Sometimes it’s easier on the road,” Appleman said. “You leave your studies, and you just focus on the matches. There are more distractions at home.”
But even with this is mind, going into another team’s gym still heightens the pressure, especially with unruly fans clad in crimson or green.
“Things change when you play away, because you don’t have the home crowd,” captain Anja Perlebach ’07 said. “Everyone wants to win at home.”
Harvard is coming off a 3-0 loss to Princeton and will undoubtedly be looking to avenge that defeat. They boast a pair of impressive middle blockers in Katie Turley-Molony and Suzie Trimble. Turley-Molony enters the game with 156 kills, 54 digs and 43 blocks in the season. The similarly impressive Trimble boasts a team-leading 170 kills along with 52 blocks. The formidable duo will create a real challenge for the Bulldogs up the middle and will set a premium of winning points at the net.
Dartmouth racked up two home wins last weekend, 3-0 over both Princeton and Penn. Appleman rates the Big Green as one of the best defensive teams in the league with a strong offense to match. They are led by middle blocker Jess Thomas, who has paced her team with 204 kills and 185 digs this season.
“We know they both have their strengths,” Perlebach said. “We’re not going to change our play, we’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
The Elis appear composed and void of the complacency that can arise during win streaks such as the current four-game Ivy run.
Appleman says her team doesn’t really look at where it stands in the Ivies, because it is simply way too early to think this is how things are going to end up.
And while it’s true that the Bulldogs have seen less than half of their Ancient Eight competition, the assessment thus far is clearly so far, so good.