Everything is supposed to be easier the second time around, and that is exactly what the women’s volleyball team hopes is true as they begin their second run through the Ivy League. But the Elis’ one game lead in the conference means they will enter this half of the season as a clear target for their opponents.

At the moment, the team controls its own destiny and the formula is simple: win the next six games and win the Ancient Eight title outright.

Before last weekend it appeared that this would be no problem for the Bulldogs, who were marching through league play with little difficulty. Things did not seem so bright after the Elis’ 3-1 loss to Princeton this past Saturday, and the team was visibly shaken.

“It was a reality check for us,” outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said. “Coming in 7-0, you can get complacent. It was a good way for us to realize we’re not invincible.”

The Bulldogs (12-5, 7-1) must refocus before taking a trip to New York this weekend to face a dangerous Cornell (12-8, 6-2) team on Friday and a struggling Columbia (5-12, 0-8) team on Saturday.

The Elis beat Columbia, 3-1, and Cornell, 3-0, at home in their first meetings, but that does not mean the women will necessarily see the same success when they travel to New York.

“Everybody is better at home,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “Now we have to face their home crowds.”

Both teams will present unique challenges for the Elis, but as usual, the squad is taking it one game at a time and concentrating this week only on their match against the Big Red.

“We’re really focused on what we need to do,” Farrell said. “We need to get back the basic fundamentals that we lost this past weekend.”

The Elis have to be ready to play against the Big Red, who sit second in the Ivy League, and bring just as many weapons as Princeton did last week. Middle blocker Joanna Weiss was named Ivy League Player of the Week last week after leading her team to two victories. Weiss is second in the league in both hitting percentage (.409) and blocks per game (1.32). She is joined by outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop who is fourth in the league with 4.25 kills per game and Alaina Town who boasts a .323 hitting percentage.

The Bulldogs do have the advantage of having seen these talented players before and should be able to adjust as necessary. Appleman said her team remembers what it was like to play the Big Red and what it took to beat them.

“The first time we were conscious of Weiss and Bishop,” Farrell said. “We were really focused on what we needed to do then and we’re focused on what we need to do now.”

Though Columbia has fallen to the basement of the Ancient Eight, and has yet to pick up its first league win, the Elis must not look past the Lions.

“It’s always been about the people wearing the Yale uniforms,” Appleman said. “But anyone can beat us and we can beat anyone.”

The Bulldogs will be cognizant of Columbia junior Natalie Gerling, who leads her team in several statistical categories, when they meet the Bears on Saturday.

The Bulldogs are entering the final stretch with high expectations and will face inevitable pressure along the way.

“We need to try to tell ourselves to believe,” outside hitter Alexis Crusey ’10 said. “We know we’re a good team and can beat anyone.”

That’s exactly the attitude that brings home Ivy League championships.