Following a split weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard, the Yale volleyball team will pick up play against Cornell and Columbia for its last two away matches of the regular season this weekend.
The Crimson (5–14, 3–7 Ivy) put the Bulldogs’ (12–7, 8–2) successful season in peril last Saturday, defeating the Elis 30–28, 25–20, 25–22, 20–25. Despite overpowering Dartmouth (7–13, 2–8) the day before, Yale’s loss of momentum against Harvard places the Elis second to Princeton in this week’s Ivy League rankings. Looking to rebound from the defeat, the Bulldogs will face Columbia (11–9, 4–6) and Cornell (15–4, 8–2) in the Empire State this weekend. A victory over the Big Red is essential to the Elis — both teams are tied for second and in hot contention for a share of the Ivy title.
“We’re completely locked in to this weekend’s competition, and we’re going to take it one game at a time,” outside hitter Kathryn Attar ’21 said.
Both Columbia and Cornell boast incredibly talented teams that will do their all to prevent the reigning Ivy champions from repeating their 2018 season’s success. Though Columbia carries a losing conference record, the Lions possess the best offensive player in the league: middle blocker Chichi Ikwuazom.
Ikwuazom leads the conference in hitting percentage, kills and overall points. In fact, she has thus far posted 377 kills, which bests the next closest conference player by over 100. The New York native has won the Ivy League Player of the Week award five times over the past nine weeks and recently registered her 418th kill against Princeton, propelling her to a new single-season program record. The senior posted 6.00 kills per set during last week’s matches.
The matchup against Cornell, another strong volleyball force in the league, will play a large part in determining the final top three standings. Compared to Columbia, the Big Red’s talent is more evenly spread among its players. Middle blocker Jada Stackhouse, outside hitter Madison Baptiste and libero Lily Barber enter the match as key players to watch out for. All three players post top 10 performances in the league for various statistics representing quality of play — hitting percentage, kills, aces, blocks, digs and overall points. Meanwhile, Cornell’s Joanna Chang and Emma Worthington have each earned Ivy Rookie of the Week.
Despite the level of competition this weekend presents, the Bulldogs are not deterred.
“The team is very determined and working hard every day to improve our game in the final weeks,” Yurika Boyd ’21 said. “We plan to compete at a high level and play our best volleyball.”
Since their loss against Princeton last weekend, the Big Red is tied for second with the Elis in the conference. Though Princeton, Cornell and Yale are the only three teams with winning records, low-ranked foes have demonstrated recent success. Harvard defeated Yale in four sets, while Columbia forced Princeton into four.
The Elis have four games left in their season, and the last two against Penn and Princeton will be played at home at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
“I feel like we were playing not to lose a little bit, so now we’ll go out and try to win,” head coach Erin Appleman said regarding last week’s loss in Cambridge. “So I think in some way it takes some pressure off of us, because now you just have to play as hard as you can.”
The Bulldogs travel to New York to face off against Cornell on Friday at 7 p.m. and Columbia on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Margaret Hedeman | email@example.com