The Yale volleyball team is just one win away from clinching the Ivy League title — and the automatic NCAA tournament bid that accompanies it.
With a thrilling 2–0 record against Penn and Princeton last weekend, the Bulldogs (17–5, 11–1 Ivy) clinched a share of the top spot in the Ancient Eight and extended their conference lead over Princeton to two games. In their two road matches against Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, the Elis need only to win one match to clinch the league title outright, for the first time since 2008.
Despite the reduced pressure of this weekend’s matches, head coach Erin Appleman said the team will be playing with its usual intensity.
“Obviously it takes some pressure off us in the sense of having one miss,” Appleman said. “But we are going to approach it just like we do every other weekend.”
Allie Frappier ’15 paced the Elis last weekend and was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for her efforts. Frappier tallied 31 kills and 25 digs between the two matches and recorded double-doubles in both matches. Frappier’s strong play put her in new territory as she cracked the Ivy League’s top ten list for kills per set. She currently stands at eighth with 3.03.
Appleman also stressed the quality of the performance of setter Kendall Polan ’14, who recorded 57 assists and three service aces against Princeton on Saturday.
“Kendall Polan is a fantastic leader on the court,” Appelman said. “What she does in practice and in the matches, getting everyone involved, is really important. Watching who she sets and when she sets them, you can see that she has a knack for it.”
This weekend, the team embarks on its final Ivy League road trip of the season to play two teams it swept earlier in the season.
The Elis will be looking to clinch the NCAA tournament berth in their first match of the weekend at Harvard (11–11, 4–8) on Friday night. The Crimson is coming off a 3–2 loss to a woeful Cornell team. But its two seniors will be playing their final collegiate volleyball matches this weekend, a factor that may inspire a strong performance for the Cantabs.
“Every team plays their best at home and especially on senior night, those teams are going to be fired up,” team captain Taylor Cramm ’12 said.
On the second leg of the trip, the Bulldogs will head up to Hanover, N.H. to take on the Big Green (14–9, 6–6).
It has been a tale of two seasons for Dartmouth. After starting its Ivy League campaign 2–4, the Big Green has surged for a 4-2 performance in the last six matches. This run included an Oct. 28 victory over Princeton that launched Yale into sole possession of first place in the conference. Although the Bulldogs thumped Dartmouth earlier this season, Appleman warned that playing the Big Green in Hanover would prove more difficult. The Elis are hoping to succeed early in the weekend, at Harvard, so they do not have to endure the stress of a must-win match at Dartmouth.
“That would obviously be an ideal situation,” Cramm said. “But we are going into this weekend to win both matches so we are not thinking about that.”
This past month, the Bulldogs have played some of their best volleyball of the season. Since losing on Oct. 14 against Princeton, Yale has won six straight matches.
The action begins Friday night with a 7 p.m. start at Harvard. The Elis will follow up Saturday night, at 5 p.m. against Dartmouth.