The Yale volleyball team will play Cornell and Columbia this weekend in the first two of five straight home matches.
The Elis (8–6, 4–1 Ivy) seek to extend their three-game winning streak against the Big Red (3–12, 0–5) and the Lions (7–7, 3–2) on Friday and Saturday. Last week, two 3–0 sweeps against Penn and Princeton vaulted Yale to the top of the league standings, tying them for first with the Tigers.
Yale has won each of the last four Ivy League championships, and though the Bulldogs started conference play 1–1, including a heartwrenching 3–2 loss to rival Harvard, the recent play of a number of standouts has helped stave off any sort of decline.
Outside hitter and captain Mollie Rogers ’15 was named Ivy League Player of the Week for the second time this season, thanks to her exploits against the Quakers and Tigers. She recorded 32 kills, 31 digs and three aces last weekend and currently leads the conference in kills. Setter Kelly Johnson ’16, middle blocker Maya Midzik ’16 and outside hitter Kaitlyn Gibbons ’18 also earned Ivy League honor roll mentions.
According to Rogers, the extra practice time the team puts in every day has led to its last three wins. Midzik attributed the team’s success to the players’ ability to take their season one match at a time.
“Every week, we just focus on the next team,” Midzik said. “So tomorrow, all we’re thinking about is Cornell — getting on the court, ready to play our first game. We had a great weekend, but now we have to look ahead and keep playing.”
Though Cornell sits in last place in the league and Columbia is in a three-way tie for third place, the Bulldogs are not underestimating the strength of either of these teams. Head coach Erin Appleman and several players have all said that each team in the Ivy League brings something different to any given match.
“Both Cornell and Columbia are very good teams, so playing them both in the same weekend can be a challenge for us,” Rogers said. “We have to think about Cornell before Columbia and really focus on them.”
Cornell has hit just .122 this season and is seeking to turn around its seven-game slide. Columbia, meanwhile, has a hit percentage of .208 and leads the league in blocks, meaning that the Bulldogs will need to put up their strongest offense this weekend.
After five weeks on the road, the team cannot wait to get back into its home game preparation routine, according to players. One thing Midzik looks forward to the most is not having to play a match after sitting through a seven-hour bus trip.
“We’re just so happy to be home and playing in front of our fans,” Appleman said. “Our last 11 games have been on the road, so we’re really excited to just be home and back in the [John J. Lee Amphitheater].”According to several players, the Elis hope to translate the momentum of their road wins into more wins at home. Rogers said it is much easier to play at home, and winning on the road gives the team extra confidence going into their home games.
Yale has won 32 straight Ivy matches at home. The Bulldogs’ last home loss in league play was on Oct. 10, 2009 against Penn.