The volleyball team aims to shrug off pressure to defend the Ivy title and notch two wins against Penn and Princeton this weekend.

The Bulldogs (6–6, 2–1 Ivy) have won the last four Ivy League championships, but find themselves staring at a 0.500 record halfway through the season. This weekend, they travel to Philadelphia to play the Quakers (4–10, 1–2 Ivy) on Friday night and to Princeton to battle the Tigers (8–5, 3–0 Ivy) on Saturday. Several Bulldogs said the team was resilient despite the 3–2 loss to Harvard last weekend.

“We didn’t play to our full potential [against Harvard], which is always upsetting, especially against a rival team,” setter Kelly Johnson ’16 said. “But we are going to use the loss to motivate us rather than keep us down.”

Middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16 agreed with Johnson that the Bulldogs would be able to put last weekend’s loss aside and focus on this weekend’s foes.

Penn and Princeton both have Ivy conference leaders on their teams. Princeton sophomore Lauren Miller has averaged the most assists per set in the league, while her teammates, junior Kendall Peterkin and senior Nicole Kincade, lead the league in kills and blocks per set, respectively. Penn players have also earned seats among the Ivy leaders in average assists per set and digs per set.

“The Ivy League is very tough and has a high level of competition,” Johnson said. “Every team is going to have wins and losses.”

Despite the loss against Harvard, the Elis collected a win last weekend by sweeping Dartmouth 3–0. Outside hitter Kaitlyn Gibbons’s ’18 performance against the Big Green earned her Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors. She had 17 kills and 29 digs in the two games combined.

Gibbons has been improving all season, head coach Erin Appleman said.

This was the fourth straight week that a Bulldog brought home the Rookie of the Week award. Before Gibbons, setter Kelsey Crawford ’18 held the title for three weeks.

Several Bulldogs agreed that the freshmen have been instrumental in Yale’s play this season.

Perhaps because of the vital role played by the rookies, Ebner added that the Elis are not preoccupied by the pressure of defending the Ivy title.

“We don’t feel any pressure because it’s a new team and a new year,” Ebner said. “We worry about each game versus the big picture.”

This weekend will mark the last of a string of away matches for the Yale women. The Bulldogs have not played at home since the season-opening Yale Invitational Tournament on Sept. 5 and 6.

Libero Tori Shepherd ’17 said she and her teammates were eager to play on their home court again.

“It’s always so much more fun to play in the gym when our fans are there to cheer us on,” Shepherd said. “Hopefully, we have a big crowd, and they’re as excited for us to be back as we are.”

The Bulldogs will return to the John J. Lee Amphitheater to face Cornell and Columbia on the weekend of Oct. 17.