Both the Princeton and Yale women's volleyball teams have done everything right through the first five games of the 2012 Ivy League season. After Friday night, only one team will be able to make that case.
And that one team, for the first time all season, will be alone in first place.
Yale (9-5, 5-0 Ivy) is the reigning Ivy League champion and has won each of its first five league matches on the road. Led by sophomore outside Mollie Rogers and junior setter Kendall Polan, the Bulldogs have dropped only two sets in league play.
But Princeton (8-7, 5-0) has matched the Bulldogs stride for stride this season.
The Tigers, which dealt with early-season injuries by utilizing their impressive depth, fought off two tough five-set matches to start the Ivy season, and have rolled since. After 3-2 wins at both Penn and Harvard, Princeton has defeated Dartmouth, Columbia and Cornell to record its second 5-0 Ivy start of the last five years.
Princeton has been led by two-time All-Ivy senior Lydia Rudnick, who leads the Ivy League in both kills (4.3) and points (4.8) per set this season. Rudnick is the older sister of Yale libero Maggie Rudnick, who ranks third in the Ivy in digs (4.7).
While Rudnick has been her usual stellar self, Princeton head coach Sabrina King has been excited by the play of her youth through the early part of the season. Freshman Kendall Peterkin ranks second in the Ivy League in both kills (3.3) and points (3.9), while sophomore setter Ginny Willis leads the league with 10.5 assists per set. Sophomore Nicole Kincade ranks second in the league in blocks (1.2), while classmate and fellow middle Tiana Woolridge has provided a huge spark during the league season.
Princeton hasn't won at Yale since the 2007 Ivy League championship season; last season, with a share of first place on the line, the Tigers grabbed the first set before falling in four. Rudnick had 17 kills and 17 digs in the loss, which all but eliminated Princeton from the Ivy race.
Regardless of what happens Friday, both teams will still have eight matches to go in league play. Princeton will head to Brown (5-10, 1-4) Saturday at 4, while Yale will host Penn at 5. The Quakers are the only other team in the Ivy League with a winning league record (3-2). Princeton and Yale will meet again on Nov. 3 in Dillon Gym.