October 19, 2007

Volleyball Set for Key Weekend

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This time last week, the volleyball team might have lost hope of attaining a fourth Ivy League championship. But two huge wins against Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend turned the entire conference on its head and entered the Red (6-9, 3-2 Ivy) into a three-way tie for third place with Yale and Penn.
This weekend, the Red could be facing two of the most important matches of the season when it takes on the Yale Bulldogs (9-5, 3-2 Ivy) tonight and the Brown Bears (2-13, 0-5 Ivy) tomorrow.
“This weekend is pretty much the deciding weekend for everyone in the league as far as who is going to remain at the top and who is going to fall out of contention,” said senior Kara Zaragoza. “It just shows how in our league everybody is beatable. I’m personally nervous and I’m sure the other girls are, but we’re all really confident that we definitely have a shot at beating both teams.”
The Bulldogs have their eyes focused on the championship, but a surprising loss to Dartmouth (12-4, 5-1) earlier in the season and a difficult loss to Princeton (13-3, 5-0) last weekend leaves them trailing an undefeated Tigers squad.
“They’re strong offensively,” said head coach Deitre Collins-Parker. “They have the ability to dominate at the net. They have pretty good athletes and pretty good size. They are probably the biggest team in the conference physically.”
The Bulldogs are also known for a talented outside led by Alexis Crusey, a former Rookie of the Year award winner. In practice, the Red have been working on blocking a hard hitting offense and defending against Yale’s star outside.
“We really worked on blocking the outside hitter and getting over the net and really pressing down,” Zaragoza said. “Really making sure we are in the right position and seeing where the set is going as soon as possible.”
With midseason fatigue and minor injuries starting to pile up, this weekend will be a test of endurance as the squad will be challenged to play Brown tomorrow after the battle against Yale tonight. With new found confidence, the Red is hoping to capitalize on a Bears squad who has also been struggling and unpredictable this season.
“You never know what Brown is going to bring to the court,” Zaragoza said. “We just need to maintain our level of play the whole time and not play to their level. And no matter who we play, we always have to go out hitting hard and doing everything at a hundred percent.”
The events of last weekend have increased the intensity throughout the Ivy League. Neither Penn nor Princeton has played an Ivy League match on the road, a variable which could work to the Red’s advantage. Still, the three teams in third place, the Red included, know that the outcome of this weekend could help them realize a dream or crush their hopes.
“I think finally winning has boosted everyone’s morale on the team and now its like, we can prove everyone wrong and win a fourth championship in a row,” Zaragoza said. “I think a lot of it will have to do with the outcome of these two matches this weekend. Its not just a big weekend for us, it goes for the rest of the league also. Our goal is definitely to end the road trip with two wins.“