With a fifth consecutive Ivy League championship on the line, the Yale volleyball team heads into its final two conference matches this weekend aiming to clinch at least a share of the conference crown.
The Bulldogs (14–7, 10–2 Ivy) hope to best both Princeton (13–9, 8–4) and Penn (8–15, 5–7) on Friday and Saturday at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. Last month, the Bulldogs recorded a 3–0 victory against Penn in a match with double-doubles from both captain Mollie Rogers ’15 and outside hitter Kaitlyn Gibbons ’18. The next night, Yale notched another clean sweep against the Tigers on the road while hitting 0.327 to Princeton’s 0.124.
Fresh off of wins at both Cornell and Columbia, the Bulldogs look to carry the momentum from their strong showings on the road into these final games. After two more double-doubles this past weekend, Rogers received Ivy League Player of the Week honors for the third time this season. Additionally, setter Kelsey Crawford ’18 is now second in the league in assists per set with 10.55 and was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week. Crawford explained that the team is more energized than ever heading into the final stretch of the season tied with Harvard.
“We’re sticking to our gameplan, but we’re more motivated to work harder and to achieve our spot as number one,” Crawford said.
Princeton sits at third place in the league, trailing Yale with respect to hitting percentage and digs but beating the Bulldogs — as well as all other Ivy foes — in assists and total kills. Although the Tigers do not have a high probability of claiming the championship, they have yet to be entirely eliminated from contention.
A few key players in Princeton’s lineup, including former first team All-Ivy selection Kendall Peterkin, will certainly be gunning for one last shot at the title. Peterkin has over 100 more kills this season than Rogers, who ranks second in the Ivy League in total kills.
Meanwhile, Penn sits in fifth place. Despite their sub-0.500 record, Penn came relatively close to knocking off Harvard in their two matchups this season, losing both matches in five sets. With three Honor Roll mentions, including outside hitter Alexis Genske, middle blocker Kendall Turner and libero Emmy Friedler, the Quakers still have a chance to pull off an upset.
Middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16, who had four kills and 10 digs last week against Columbia, noted that the Bulldogs were not going to take either team lightly.
“They both have very strong weapons, and both teams are going to come out and fight hard, and that’s just what we’re expecting and trying to prepare for,” Ebner said.
Harvard will play Columbia and Cornell at home this weekend. If both Harvard and Yale win both their matches and remain tied after this weekend, they will face each other in a one-game playoff hosted at Harvard. The last Ivy League playoff for the NCAA bid occurred in 2010, when Yale lost to Penn in New Haven.
All three players interviewed emphasized the fact that the team is confident in its current standing.
“It’s a dichotomy between confidence and trying to play with an underdog mentality,” libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 said of the Bulldogs’ attitude towards the upcoming games in light of their status as reigning conference champions. “[It’s] having the confidence that we can win as well as not being cocky.”
The Elis take on Princeton and Penn at 7:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, respectively.