Last weekend’s Yale Invitational served as an effective season-opening warm-up for the women’s volleyball team. From a results standpoint, however, the Bulldogs’ 1–2 record left the team disappointed.
This weekend, the Elis will travel to Hamilton, New York for the Colgate Classic, where they hope to translate success on the court to the scoreboard. Yale will face Albany, Colgate and Rutgers over two days, giving the team an opportunity to test itself against other schools in the Northeast.
While the four-team tournament format differs from the normal two-game Ivy League weekend schedule, the unique schedule should help prepare the Bulldogs for the conference season.
“The uniqueness of these tournaments is the length and duration,” middle blocker Claire Feeley ’17 said. “You’re playing more games and having to constantly learn new scouting reports and keep track of different players who can do different things.”
Feeley added that tournaments are more exhausting than regular weekends. As a result, Yale’s early season schedule challenges the players and forces them to find a way to win when they are not at their peak.
The first match of the weekend for the Bulldogs is against the Great Danes of Albany, who are traveling to their third tournament in the last three weekends. Albany enters the tournament with a 3–3 overall record, including commanding wins over Oakland and Indiana State at last week’s Golden Flashes Classic.
In 2014, Albany made the championship game in the America East conference tournament with a subpar 10–17 record, and the Great Danes have been picked to finish second in their conference this season. Their biggest weapon, outside hitter Laini Leindecker, returns for her junior year after finishing first team All-Conference in the America East a year ago.
On Saturday, Yale plays its first game against the tournament’s host, the Colgate Raiders. Colgate comes into its home opener with an 0–6 record, having won a total of three sets across their six games so far. But despite their poor performance, the Raiders’ home-court advantage and four returning starters make them a difficult opponent for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs wrap up the Colgate Classic with a matinee against Rutgers, who come to Hamilton fresh off a winless performance at the Harvard Classic. The Scarlet Knights bring a 1–5 record into the tournament, including a 3–0 loss to the Crimson that bodes well for Yale’s chances.
While Harvard defeated the Elis during both of last year’s regular season meetings, Yale swept the Ivy League tiebreaker match to claim the Ivy’s lone NCAA Tournament berth. The Bulldogs expect to battle with Harvard for the conference title once again, but they first must get past Rutgers, the Crimson’s latest victim.
For the Bulldogs, however, the non-conference slate as a whole is still more about developing chemistry and experience for the team’s new players and veterans thrust into new roles.
“These preseason tournaments help us to work out the kinks and build team chemistry,” outside hitter Kaitlyn Gibbons ’18 said. “They prepare us for challenges we may face during the season.”
Additionally, this weekend marks the first of many trips away from home for the Bulldogs, who will also travel to the San Francisco Challenge next weekend. For new and old team members alike, this weekend will provide a taste of the challenges that come with playing in hostile road environments.
“The first road trip is always very fun and exciting, yet difficult,” outside hitter Megan Rasmussen ’18 said. “It’s weird playing in a different gym and in front of a different crowd, but it’s so good to get acclimated to that different environment in the preseason so we will be ready for our away Ivy games.”
Yale faces Albany at 4 p.m. on Friday, and then plays Colgate and Rutgers at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.