As if a Cinderella story for the regular season were enough, the Bulldogs are headed to the big dance this weekend.
Today, Yale (20-5, 13-1 Ivy) begins its NCAA tournament run against Ohio University (24-7) at 3:30 p.m. in University Park, Pa.
The Bulldogs earned their spot in the postseason by winning the Ivy League championship, dropping only one match in conference play. This is the second time in the program’s 30-year history that the Elis will play in the tournament. In 2004, the Elis advanced through the first round with a five-set victory over Albany, but dropped its second round match to Minnesota.
The Bobcats also received their tournament bid by championing their league, the Mid-American Conference. Ohio is currently on a 10-game winning streak.
The two teams have only tangoed once before, at the Holiday Inn Express Invitational in 2006 where the Bobcats overpowered the Elis in three straight sets. Outside hitter Alexis Crusey ’10 led the Bulldogs with 11 kills and nine digs, while captain and setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 posted 30 assists in the team’s effort. Currently, six Elis and five Bobcats who were on the roster in 2006 will suit up for this match.
But the Bulldogs know that today’s game will be far from an exact repeat.
“Both teams are entirely different,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “We’re just focusing on ourselves. We’re excited to be in the tournament and show people what we can do.”
The Elis, who return Crusey and Mendenhall, will also bring outside hitter Cat Dailey ’10, the unanimous selection for Ivy League Player of the Year. If the Elis advance, they will be back on the court at 4 p.m. on Saturday against the winner of Friday night’s match between defending champion No. 1 Penn State (32-0) and Long Island (19-11).
The trip to Penn State is a homecoming for Appleman, who was the assistant head coach for the Nittany Lions for eight years before coming to Yale.
But the Bulldogs are not focused on a potential match against the Nittany Lions right now.
“We would be thrilled to play Penn State,” Appleman said. “But right now, Ohio is the only team to beat on our schedule.”