Last year, Yale volleyball entered Ivy League play with a 6-3 mark before cruising to a nearly flawless 13-1 conference record en route to a League championship.
The Bulldogs’ one conference loss, however, came at the hands of the Quakers — a five-set thriller in New Haven, Conn.
The Bulldogs (11-1, 1-0 Ivy) are off to an even better start this year, and will try to avoid a repeat when Penn (10-4, 1-0) visits Saturday for a 4 p.m. matchup. The Quakers’ road trip begins tonight with a 7 p.m. contest against Brown.
Penn is riding the momentum of its first win over Princeton in four years. With their recent success, the Quakers are anything but intimidated by the defending champion Bulldogs.
“We know if we play the way we played at Princeton, which was a high hitting percentage, low error ball game, that we’re going to beat a team like Yale,” coach Kerry Carr said. “I call that playing at our best level.”
Penn hit an impressive .317 as a team against the Tigers and committed just 16 errors. They’ll need to maintain that level against a Yale team that pushed the Quakers to five sets in both matches last year.
This time, Penn expects to win every match that enters a fifth set. The Quakers have already begun the season 3-0 in five-game matches, something junior outside hitter Julia Swanson attributes to a new mentality on this year’s team.
“[Assistant coach] Ryan Goodwin said last year the most important thing that a team can do is be used to winning,” she said. “I think this year, we’re used to winning. We know we’re the better team. And that is really important going into the fifth set of matches.”
Hiding amidst the hype of the showdown with Yale is the meeting tonight with Brown (4-8, 0-1) in Providence, R.I.
Penn has been careful not to overlook the Bears after being stunned in a five-set loss the night before beating Yale last season.
“Fortunately, we had a lesson-learned moment last year, so there’s no problem in reminding the team about that,” Carr noted. “As a coaching staff, we’re not looking past them.”
Last year’s loss is all the motivation the Quakers need.
“We shouldn’t be going to five sets against that team,” Swanson explained. “So we’re just going to take care of business on Friday and look at Yale after that. We’re not letting [Brown win] again this year.”
If the Quakers can stay focused enough to avoid another disappointment against the Bears, then the Yale match could take on serious Ivy title implications.
And if the Quakers continue listening to Goodwin’s wise words and manage a victory over the defending champions, it won’t be the players, but the fans, that will have to get used to winning.
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