With Alumni Weekend finished and its first Ivy League victory secured, the volleyball team hits the road for a set of games against Ancient Eight rivals Penn and Princeton, before returning to face non-conference opponent Binghamton.
The Red (4-9, 1-2 Ivy League) is fresh off a 3-1 victory over Brown — a win that tied the team for fourth place in the Ivy League. According to head coach Melissa Batie-Smoose, the game against the Bears aided the team in mentally preparing for the upcoming challenges.
“Coming off the Brown win helps us momentum-wise,” she said. “It’s always great to have that coming into this weekend. We had our first Ivy win and that helps our confidence for sure.”
The Red’s first opponent is the Quakers (6-8, 1-2), who split last weekend’s play after following an easy win over Dartmouth with a tough 3-2 loss to Harvard. It’s no rest for the weary, however, as the Red will immediately board a bus bound for New Jersey as soon as the match against Penn is finished. The team will spend the night in New Jersey before taking on Princeton on Saturday.
The Tigers (6-7, 3-0) are riding a three-game winning streak, with each win coming against an Ivy rival. Princeton defeated Penn, 3-2, two weeks ago before securing victories over both Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend. The Tigers’ perfect conference record ties them with Yale for first place in the Ivy League.
With hardly any rest between games, the team has to get ready for both teams this week in practice. Batie-Smoose emphasized that the Red can’t focus on one team over the other.
“Penn and Princeton both traditionally have been very strong programs,” she said. “You have to equally prepare for both.”
Junior middle blocker Janel Forte added that strong practices are important when playing conference opponents back-to-back.
“Going into Ivies it’s all about preparation — you could go into the weekend playing two teams that are very different,” she said. “When we go into practice we really have to focus on each key point we go over so that way it will translate into the two teams we see that weekend.”
Moving away from Ivy play, the Red has a two-day break before taking on the Bearcats (5-13, 2-1 American East) in Newman Arena on Tuesday. After winning just two of its first 14 games, Binghamton bounced back with a three-game win-streak that ended Sunday with a loss to New Hampshire.
The Red also suffered a tough beginning to the season, losing six of its opening seven matches. In recent weeks, however, the team has posted an even record, taking three of six since Sept. 15. Forte attributes this improvement to taking care of the smaller elements of the team’s game.
“We’ve done so much better in just focusing on details and fighting for every point,” she said.
In order to succeed in the upcoming games, Batie-Smoose highlighted ball control as a key aspect.
“Our big focus has been our passing and serving game,” she said. “We know when that is on, we gain more confidence in other areas of our game.”