After a challenging preseason, it is finally time for Ivy League play to begin for the volleyball team.

The Bulldogs will begin their quest for a third straight conference title this Saturday, when they travel to Providence, R.I., to take on Brown (3–6). This weekend’s match is the beginning of a difficult stretch of five away contests that will keep Yale on the road until Oct. 12. This represents a new challenge for the Elis, who started last season by playing their first five league matches in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

“It’s definitely going to be difficult,” libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 said. “Playing on the road is always a little tougher. You have to get used to a new gym and different lighting … but I think we can pull through and get some wins.”

This weekend’s matches will be just the second time Yale (4–5) hits the road this season after traveling to San Diego last weekend. Yale dropped all three of those matches, which continues a trend the team has developed over the last two years. Going back to 2010, the Elis have played to a sterling 25–4 record at home but have won just 14 of 30 matches played on the road.

Although Yale did not manage to win a match last weekend, the Ivy League honored two Bulldogs for their performances. Setter Kelly Johnson ’16 shared her first Rookie of the Week award with Columbia’s Atlanta Moye-McLauren and outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 was named to the conference’s honor roll.

In just her first season, Johnson has been a key player for the Bulldogs. Following the nonconference portion of their schedule, Johnson is second on the team in kills with 78 and second on the team in assists with 161. Head coach Erin Appleman said that she feels the entire freshman class is ready to take on Ivy opponents.

“I think [the freshmen] are getting more mature as we keep playing,” she said. “Jesse [Ebner], Karlee [Fuller] and Kelly [Johnson] have all played club ball at a really high level, so I think the pressure of the Ivy League is not going to affect them as much as it would young freshmen.”

Brown is currently mired in an early slump. In their past six matches, the Bears have won just three of a possible 18 sets and been swept five times. However, three of those squads were from the West Coast, where the quality of collegiate volleyball tends to be higher, and two were from major conferences.

That stretch includes a trip to New Haven for the Yale Invitational two weeks ago. While at Yale, Brown was defeated 3–0 by both Northwestern and Villanova. In that same weekend, Yale won a set from Northwestern and defeated Villanova with a 3–1 come-from-behind victory.

“Brown is on the upswing and they’ve definitely improved,” Appleman said about the Bears. “They played tremendous defense [at the Yale Invitational], and Maddie Lord is a very good offensive threat for them.”

Lord led Brown in kills last year and finished fourth in the conference with 3.28 per set. But she did not find success against the Bulldogs last season. Instead, Lord had two of her worst performances of the season. In the Ivy opener, Lord recorded two kills and eight errors for an abysmal -0.316 hitting percentage.

The action begins at 2 p.m. on Friday in Brown’s Pizzitola Sports Center.