Shannon Farrell ’07 and Anja Perlebach ’07 have been pivotal in bringing women’s volleyball back to the forefront of the athletics scene at Yale. The two will end their impressive careers this weekend, and their team still has an outside shot of winning an Ivy League title.
Dartmouth (8-16, 4-8 Ivy) will enter Lee Amphitheater hoping to end any dream the Bulldogs (14-7, 9-3) have of taking home a piece of the Ancient Eight crown. The Elis beat the Big Green 3-0 in their first meeting in Hanover, N.H. Rival Harvard (10-13, 4-8) will cap Yale’s season, and they too enter with expectations of avenging their loss in Cambridge several weeks ago.
This weekend will mean a lot to the team’s only two seniors.
“It’s always nice to have two leaders who are so balanced in their skills,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “They’ve both come a long way since their freshman years, and they are one of the main reasons why we are so competitive and why we are able to bring in top recruits.”
It’s true the program has seen a resurgence in the past several years, and two wins this weekend will solidify another strong season, whether that includes a one or a two next to Yale’s name in the final Ancient Eight standings.
“We’re going out to win,” middle blocker Laurel Johnson ’10 said. “You never know what can happen and so we just need to pick up these two wins and see what happens.”
Dartmouth is notoriously one of the best defensive teams in the league. They also have an onslaught of talented outside hitters, including sophomore Jess Thomas who leads the league in aces with 0.58 per game. She is flanked by middle blockers Nadine Parris and Frances Samolowicz, who have two of the best hitting percentages in the Ivy League. The Bulldogs will need to be vigilant of Dartmouth’s many weapons if they hope to take the first of this weekend’s matches.
As always, the season finishes with a match against the Cantabs. The contest typically elicits strong emotions on the part of the players, but since Yale no longer controls its own Ivy League title destiny, the pressure to take this final match is not as high as was expected earlier in the year.
“It’s disappointing that we don’t have that pressure from before,” Farrell said. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere.”
With pride on the line above all else, the Elis should still come out firing against the Crimson. Harvard boasts a pair of impressive middle blockers in Katie Turley-Molony and Suzie Trimble. Trimble enters the match with a .396 hitting percentage, good enough for third overall in the Ivy League, and is averaging 1.03 blocks per game. Just as in the last match, 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.
“We know our chances of winning a championship are almost nil to none.” Appleman said. “But it’s important for the program not to let anyone come in here and beat us. We have young players, and it’s important for my team to put two good matches together.”
In reality, the Bulldogs’ chances are not quite as improbable as Applemen suggests. Yale, at 9-3 in the Ivy League, trails only Princeton and Cornell, both of whom have two losses. But the Elis’ hopes may actually be riding on Penn, a team the Bulldogs swept in both of their meetings. The Quakers face Cornell on the road on Friday and Princeton on the road on Wednesday. An upset by Penn against either team would shake up the standings. And most importantly, on Saturday the Big Red will travel to New Jersey to face the Tigers in what is guaranteed to be one of the best matchups of the season.
If things fall into place for the Elis and they take care of business at home against two deceptively good teams this weekend, they may still take a piece of the title, a nice farewell gift for Farrell and Perlebach.