Around the Ivies: Tigers, Bulldogs stand atop league
Friday evening, Princeton and Yale will square off in the biggest game of the Ivy League women’s volleyball season. Who has the upper hand, and can anyone challenge the Tigers and Bulldogs for conference supremacy? We break down those questions and more:
Yale (9-5 overall, 5-0 Ivy League) After returning many top players from last year’s Ivy League champion, Yale was expected to be the class of the conference again this year — and things have gone according to plan thus far, as the Bulldogs won their first five league games while dropping a total of only two sets. Yale’s first home conference match will also be its biggest, as it welcomes the Tigers in Friday’s clash of the league’s top teams.
Princeton (8-7, 5-0) It took a while for Princeton to find its footing, as it lost seven of nine games at the start of September, but the Tigers turned it on in league play. They haven’t been as dominant as Yale, though, squeaking past Penn and Harvard 3-2 early on. Senior outside hitter Lydia Rudnick and freshman opposite Kendall Peterkin are first and second in the league in kills per set, but they’ll have their work cut out for them at Payne Whitney Gymnasium this weekend.
Penn: (8-8, 3-2) The Quakers are two 3-2 losses away from a perfect record, as they hammered three other opponents 3-0 to take an above-.500 record into the third full weekend of conference play. Anchoring a strong defense, libero Dani Shepherd leads the nation with 6.63 kills per set, while setter Ronnie Bither and right side hitter Alex Caldwell have combined to win four of the six Rookie of the Week awards.
Harvard (5-11, 2-3) After opening September with eight straight games that ended with 3-0 scores — including two wins and six losses — the Crimson has had more excitement in Ivy League play, going to five sets in three of its five contests. Led by outside hitter Taylor Doctor, who has more attacks than anyone else in the league and ranks fifth in kills per set, Harvard edged Penn and could threaten to crack the top three.
Columbia (7-7, 2-3) The Lions opened their season with two victories, but things quickly turned sour, as they won one set of 10 against the gauntlet of Yale, Princeton and Penn. Heather Braunagel and Savannah Fletcher both rank in the league’s top three in blocks per set; not surprisingly, the Lions are the Ivy’s top blocking team. This weekend, they’ll return home, where they are 5-1 this year.
Brown (5-10, 1-4) If one team currently in the basement can finish the season in the top half of the league, it will likely be the Bears. They have been competitive in their losses, especially in their Ivy League opener against Yale, when Brown took the third set and lost two others in extra points. With outside hitter Maddie Lord currently third in the league in kills per set, the Bears may provide a challenge for Princeton on Saturday if the Tigers suffer a letdown after battling Yale.
Cornell (5-11, 1-4) The Big Red is the Ivy League’s top serving team, averaging more than an ace and a half per set, but its success largely ends there. Cornell beat Brown 3-1 two weeks ago, but has won only one other set in conference play; even though it won the third set, the Big Red looked outclassed at Dillon Gymnasium on Saturday.
Dartmouth (2-13, 1-4) Last year’s Big Green upset Princeton and Yale en route to a 16-9 overall record; this season’s edition doesn’t look as capable. After edging Harvard 3-2 in its conference opener, Dartmouth collected a total of one set from its next four conference matches. And it may get worse — the Big Green, which ranks last in the league in hitting, will play seven of its last nine matches away from home.
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