After sweeping three consecutive games at the Yale Invitational, the Yale volleyball team is challenging their first Ivy foe, Brown, this Saturday.
Last weekend, the Bulldogs (4–5, 0–0 Ivy) pulled an impressive stunt, beating all three competitors, Stony Brook (4–10, 0–0 America East), Army (8–4, 0–0) and Sacred Heart (4–8, 0–0 Northeast), in three straight sets each. After a grueling start to their preseason — winning only one out of six games at the Indiana and Trojan Invitationals — Yale reignited their spark and added a few wins to the record before heading into Ivy League play. The Blue and White will seek to extend their winning streak to five this weekend against the Bears (8–2, 0–0 Ivy).
“As a team, we are excited,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “[During the preseason], we were playing three matches a week while Brown is [the] only one [this weekend], so it’s nice to really be able to focus on one team all week long. We will also spend a big chunk of that time thinking about us and concentrating on our side of the court.”
Yale opened Ivy play against Brown last year on Sept. 22. Though the game went decisively to the Elis in straight sets 25–18, 25–15, 25–22, the Bulldogs have lost some key senior players who contributed to this win. Outside hitter Kelley Wirth ’18 posted 15 kills while libero Kate Swanson ’18 gave the Elis an edge with 22 digs.
On the other side of the net, the Bears have performed similarly to their 2018 season thus far. Before taking on the Elis, Brown went 7–2 during the preseason. This fall, they dominated at the Friar Classic, sweeping three out of four competitors 3–0. The Bears’ two losses have come against New Hampshire and Northwestern State.
Brown outside hitter Makena Ehlert has proved critical to the Bears’ success thus far this season. The senior has executed 143 kills over 10 games with her season high coming against Holy Cross when she tallied 19 kills. Ehlert earned tournament honors at the Friar Classic and was subsequently named Brown’s Student-Athlete of the Week for the week of Sept. 9.
Despite the Bears’ premature success, the Elis feel hopeful going into the matchup.
“This past weekend has given us a lot of confidence going into Ivy League play,” captain and middle blocker Izzy Simqu ’20 said. “Taking care of a bunch of different teams in our gym is assuring because we obviously haven’t played in our gym in a while.”
The Bulldogs have an impressive history against the Bears. The Blue and White has not given up a set to Brown since 2015. At the conclusion of the 2018 season, Yale ranked first in the Ivy League with Brown coming in sixth.
While the team as a whole saw success last weekend, there are a few standout players. Setter Franny Arnatou ’19 holds the league high in number of assists so far this season with 310, and libero Yuika Boyd ’21 ranks number two in digs with a total of 131.
“It’s looking good,” outside hitter Tiffany Pedersen-Henry ’23 said. “We’re really excited to start Ivy League competition. I think we are prepared, excited and ready for this match.”
The game is set to begin at 5 p.m. on Saturday at John J. Lee Amphitheater.
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