The women’s volleyball team enters a pivotal weekend in Ivy League play, as it goes on the road to face Yale (9-5 overall, 5-0 Ivy League) on Friday and Brown (5-10, 1-4) on Saturday.
The Tigers (8-7, 5-0) hope to dethrone the defending champion Bulldogs in the battle of the only remaining undefeated teams in league play.
The Tigers have the top two attackers in the conference, with senior co-captain and outside hitter Lydia Rudnick dominating the league with 4.25 kills per set, followed by freshman right side Kendall Peterkin posting a 3.33 mark. Princeton also boasts the only setter reaching double digits in assists per set. Sophomore setter Ginny Willis leads the pack by a wide margin, averaging 10.45. Fellow sophomore and middle blocker Nicole Kincade ranks second in the league with 1.24 blocks per set.
The Tigers and Bulldogs had tight battles last season, splitting their two meetings with each team defending its home court. However, Yale had the better record in the end and took home the league title.
“Our matches against Yale last year were both very tight,” Rudnick said. “At home, I think it was one of the best games we played as a team and is probably the most memorable game that I have ever played. I have yet to beat Yale in their home gym, and I think that this is definitely the year for us to do it.”
The match has even greater significance for Rudnick, as this season marks the last time she will compete for bragging rights against her younger sister Maddie, the starting libero for the Bulldogs who is averaging 4.67 digs per set, good for third in the Ivy League.
“She is one of the best serve-receive passers that I’ve seen, and we will want to make sure to serve away from her,” the elder Rudnick said. “She is also pretty solid on defense and is able to dig the hard-driven balls and pick up on tips. [But] she is still relatively young. She is only a sophomore, so she does not have as much college-level experience, and we might be able to capitalize on that.”
Despite Brown’s 1-4 league record, the Tigers need to continue their focused play to give themselves the best chance for a victory. Brown’s Maddie Lord has been strong with her attack, ranking third in the league in kills per set with 3.02 behind Rudnick and Peterkin. Defensive specialist Kathryn Conner leads the Bears with 4.76 digs per set.
“Brown is one of those teams that can come out strong and surprise you,” Peterkin said. “A loss to any team can easily change the rankings, and we want to make sure we stay at the top. Whatever happens on Friday, we have to reset mentally as if that game didn’t happen and focus on beating another very good team.”
While coming out of these games unscathed will be no easy task, Princeton is entering the weekend riding a wave of momentum. After starting the season 3-7, the Tigers won two five-game thrillers on the road before winning the following three matches in a more routine fashion, closing out the last of those wins in decisive form, 25-18 over Dartmouth, 25-19 over Columbia and 25-14 over Cornell.
“Starting the season off with a few losses was tough, but we seemed to bounce back pretty quickly,” Peterkin said. “I think the reason for that was the cohesiveness and positive attitude that the team started to develop. We all have a very strong determination to do well, and I think that is what ultimately keeps us going through tough matches.”
“Practices have gone great this week. Everyone is super excited and has been playing with great energy in the gym,” Rudnick said. “We have a saying on our team that is ‘18 for 14,’ which means that we need all 18 of us focused and ready for all 14 of our matches.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/12/31491/