Forget the traditional Saturday before Thanksgiving. The Game is this weekend.
On Saturday, the place to see Yale (8-3, 2-0 Ivy) square off against Harvard (7-7, 2-0) won’t be at Harvard’s Horseshoe or the Yale Bowl. It will be at the John J. Lee Amphitheater, and it will be a battle for the history books.
In fact, this weekend is all about history. The Yale volleyball program will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in a ceremony Saturday.
The program’s only unshared Ivy Championship came in the 1978-’79 season, in the league’s second year of existence. (Yale shared a title in 2004-’05 with Princeton.)
“We’re very excited to play against Harvard this weekend,” senior captain and setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 said. “It’s a great advantage to play at home, and this weekend means so much for so many people.”
While the Bulldogs always look to the home crowd for inspiration to play their best volleyball, they fully expect an added boost from the numerous alumni planning to attend the game.
“We picked this weekend to celebrate because it was against Harvard,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “It could be something special with all the alumnae there. It will be inspiring for us.”
Although the Bulldogs will be competing on home territory, the Crimson will not be an easy opponent to overcome. Last weekend Harvard climbed to .500 with a victory over Dartmouth (4-8, 0-2). Like Yale, Harvard is undefeated in the Ivy League. The Crimson finds itself tied with Yale atop the Ivy League standings. The team is led by freshman Anne Ingersoll, who is second in the league with a .385 hitting percentage.
The Bulldogs have more to worry about than just one person across the net. In fact, Harvard matches up evenly against the Bulldogs, as the Cantabs are ranked first or second in most statistical categories. The Elis lead the league in hitting percentage, kills per set, blocks per set and digs. But the Crimson leads the Bulldogs in assists per game and is a close second in all of the other categories.
Before the Bulldogs take on the Crimson, they must first defeat the Big Green of Dartmouth on Friday. Last weekend Dartmouth dropped its second match of the year to Harvard, but it is looking to get back on track against the Bulldogs.
In fact, if Harvard is a matchup about representing history, then the Dartmouth game is about redemption from last year. The Big Green were the only Ivy League team to sweep the Bulldogs in 2007. Yet this is a new season, and Dartmouth has seen a lot of turnover on its squad, returning only one senior.
Despite this weekend’s high profile, the Bulldogs insist their experience is about more than just victories, rivalries and Ivy championships.
When asked about what it means to be a part of a Yale tradition, Mendenhall took a moment to reflect on her time playing for Yale volleyball.
“I’m proud to be a part of this team,” she said. “Playing volleyball has enhanced my experience here at Yale.”