It’s going to be cats versus dogs in the John J. Lee Amphitheater this weekend. After a strong start in last week’s Yale Classic, the volleyball team (2–1) hopes to maintain its momentum when it faces Wildcat foes from both Villanova and Northwestern in this weekend’s Yale Invitational. The team will use the matchups against its feline foes to continue preparing for its Ivy League schedule, which begins on Sept. 22.
“The preseason matches are great for us to learn to play together as a team,” outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 said. “Especially with so many freshmen, it helps us get into a rhythm as a team. You learn how everyone else plays and how that relates to your playing style, which is really helpful.”
Leading the charge for Yale will be setter Kendall Polan ’14, who picked up right where she left off last season by winning this year’s first Ivy League Player of the Week award. Polan averaged almost 11 kills, over 22 assists and exactly 11 digs per match and hit an astounding .424 to anchor the Bulldogs.
But the Elis will need everyone to step up this weekend against two tough foes from major conferences. Although she commended the team’s performance after its first three matches, head coach Erin Appleman said that the team still is not quite where she wants it to be.
“We’re still trying to figure out what lineups we’re going to be using and trying to improve,” she said. “I don’t think we did as well as we should have in passing and serving last weekend, and we need to get better there.”
The weekend’s first challenge comes on Friday night against Villanova (4–2), which belongs to the Big East conference and went 17–13 last season. However, the Wildcats are dealing with the loss of libero Kim Maroon, who graduated in the spring. Maroon led the Big East in digs and was named a Third-Team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association last year.
On Saturday, Yale will play host to the Northwestern Wildcats (5–0). The Wildcats are members of the Big Ten conference, indisputably the strongest in the nation. The Big Ten boasts six teams in the nation’s top 25, including the top two squads, Nebraska and Penn State. Although Northwestern is not considered one of the conference’s strongest teams, the Wildcats picked up quality wins over No. 15 Minnesota, No. 22 Ohio State and No. 2 Nebraska last season.
“Northwestern is very athletic,” Appleman said. “They’re used to good competition, and I think they’re going to be very talented. It’s a great opportunity for us to have a Big Ten team on campus.”
Northwestern’s biggest threat will be junior and outside hitter Stephanie Holthus, the only Wildcat to be named to the preseason All-Big Ten team. Holthus notched at least 15 kills in 18 contests last season and was named to the All-Big Ten squad for the first time.
The action tips off at 7 p.m. on Friday night when the Elis host Villanova.