Following a dominating finish at the Penn State Classic last weekend, the Yale volleyball team will host Brown on Friday at 7 p.m. in the first conference match of the season. The Bulldogs will look to take advantage of the home court during the outset of the season, as their first five conference matches occur within the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater. Over the course of seven weeks, the Bulldogs will play in a double round-robin in which it will face each team in the Ancient Eight twice. The team that emerges with the best record in the conference will claim the Ivy League title. After concluding the 2016 season with a second-place finish, the Elis are top contenders this season to claim their ninth conference championship and their first since 2014.

Brown (5–6, 0–0 Ivy)

Brown had a promising start to the season with three consecutive victories at the Holy Cross Invitational against Fairleigh Dickinson, Manhattan and Holy Cross, dropping only one set in the entire tournament. However, the Bears hit a disastrous stretch after their hot start, dropping five-straight matches before rebounding with a victory over Central Connecticut State on Tuesday.

The Bears concluded the 2016 Ancient Eight season in seventh place, posting a 3–11 record in conference play. Yale handily swept both matches against Brown last season and has dropped just one contest to the Bears since 2008.

Columbia (5–4, 0–0)

Still hungry for its first Ivy League title, Columbia has battled through an up-and-down opening to 2017. After trading wins and losses during the first week, the Lions put together their first win streak of the season by dismantling Rhode Island, Fordham and St. Francis Brooklyn in quick succession. However, their triumphs were halted in a tough loss against LIU Brooklyn on Sunday, when the Lions fell in a five-set nailbiter.

Reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Chichi Ikuazom carried Columbia to a 9–5 conference record last season and currently ranks second in the Ancient Eight with a scorching 0.411 hitting percent. Yale will take on the pesky Lions and the 6’1” middle blocker powerhouse on Oct. 6.

Cornell (4-5, 0–0)

After posting its best season in eight years, Cornell looks to carry its improvement from last season into this fall. The Big Red finished the 2016 season with a 6–8 record, good enough for fifth place in the Ivy League — its highest finish since 2008. After three weeks of play, Cornell has struggled to maintain a 0.500 mark, dropping its last two matches against Stony Brook and Colgate while managing to win just one set against the Seawolves in the consecutive losses.

The Elis won both matches against Cornell last season with identical set scores of 3–1, extending their win streak over their perennially mediocre rival to 18 matches. Yale will look to continue its winning ways against the Big Red on Oct. 7.

Dartmouth (4–5, 0–0)

Although it posted a league-worst 2–12 record in conference play in 2016, the Big Green has a fresh look this fall, with seven first years joining the team. Having never won the Ivy League championship, the team is looking to string together success after concluding a rough stretch of nonconference matches. Dartmouth had its most decisive victory of the season against Siena last weekend, winning 25–22, 25–18, 25–18 — the only match this fall it has won in straight sets.

The Bulldogs swept both matches against Dartmouth last season but struggled through a dramatic five-set epic in Hanover in the final match of its second-place Ivy League season. The Big Green will welcome the Bulldogs back to Hanover for a rematch on Oct. 13.

Harvard (5–4, 0–0)

As Ivy League play commences, the Crimson is the hottest team in the Ancient Eight and looks to carry momentum from nonconference play into conference competition. Harvard opened the season with a slow start, dropping four out of its first five matches. However, the Crimson swiftly turned its fortunes around, claiming four-straight wins to climb over 0.500 before heading into the Ancient Eight double round-robin. Harvard finished the 2016 season in fourth place with a 7–7 record against conference opponents.

The Elis matched up evenly against the Crimson in 2016, splitting the season series after each team took a victory on its home court. The Bulldogs will travel to Cambridge to face their biggest rivals on Oct. 14.

Penn (5–4, 0–0)

Along with Princeton, Penn is the only other team in the Ancient Eight to boast a double-digit total of Ivy League titles. The historically successful program will seek to bounce back from a subpar, sixth-place 2016 campaign in which the Quakers managed just five league wins. At the Robert Morris Invitational last weekend, Penn rallied from an opening defeat to Rutgers to rattle off two straight wins against Robert Morris and Middle Tennessee State.

Yale had little problem stomping the Quakers last season, conceding just 18.5 points per set in a pair of commanding sweeps. The Bulldogs look to continue their dominance over Penn at home on Sept. 29.

Princeton (7–3, 0–0)

The defending back-to-back Ivy League champions enter the 2017 double round-robin with the best overall record in the conference. With an Ivy-most 15 total league titles, Princeton is determined to make a return run to the NCAA tournament after suffering a first-round defeat to Brigham Young last season. After an underwhelming 1–2 finish at the American Volleyball Challenge last weekend, the Tigers will reset to shake off their defeats against their upcoming Ivy foes.

The Bulldogs turned in a season-definining performance against the then-undefeated Tigers in a five-set win last Nov. 4 to preserve Yale’s third consecutive undefeated home conference season. The Elis will reprise their rivalry with Princeton at John J. Lee Amphitheater on Sept. 30.

Yale (6–3, 0–0)

The Bulldogs enter conference play coming off a hot stretch last weekend at the Penn State Classic, dismantling Ohio and Wake Forest without dropping a set after suffering a setback against the No. 2 Nittany Lions. Yale has held total command in John J. Lee Amphitheater in recent years, going undefeated at home last season while posting a 27–1 record over the past four seasons. With the upcoming five-game home stand in their favor, the Bulldogs look to begin Ivy League competition by sustaining their high level of play.

Contact Jimmy Chen at jimmy.chen@yale.edu .