When the Princeton women's volleyball team opened a five-match road trip two weeks ago, it never lost sight on the potential pot of gold at the end of rainbow. That pot of gold — first place in the Ivy League — is now only two wins away, though that challenge will be a mighty one.
Princeton will play its final two road matches of the Ivy League regular season this weekend, beginning Friday night at Brown (7 p.m.). Should the Tigers win that night, it would set up the biggest match of the Ivy League season the following day at Yale (5 p.m.).
Yale enters the weekend alone in first place with a 9-1 record; its lone loss came at Dillon Gym against an inspired Princeton squad. The Tigers are alone in second at 8-2, with both of their losses coming on the road against third-place Columbia and fourth-place Dartmouth.
While Columbia also remains in the race with a 7-3 record, both Princeton and Yale are the teams with absolute control of their own destiny in the league race. With a sweep this weekend, Yale would clinch at least a share of the Ivy title and would, at most, need only one win the final weekend to earn the Ivy's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Should Princeton sweep, it will be assured at least a share of first place heading into next weekend's home matches against both Cornell and Columbia. Yale opens its weekend with a home match against 2010 Ivy champion Penn; should that result go the Tigers' way, Princeton could find itself alone atop the mountain by late Saturday night.
Princeton bounced back from a 3-1 loss at Dartmouth last Friday with a 3-1 win at Harvard, giving the Tigers a winning record in road Ivy matches this season. While the talented freshman class has played a big role in the team's success this season, Princeton will need its top duo of Lydia Rudnick and Cathryn Quinn to carry the load this weekend.
Rudnick, a 2010 first-team All-Ivy outside, is currently leading the Ivy League in kills (3.81 in Ivy matches only) and points (4.34), and she had arguably her best match in the 3-1 win over Yale Oct. 14. Rudnick recorded 25 kills and 14 digs, and she hit .434 in the match. Quinn, another first-team All-Ivy pick last season, is second in points (4.31), third in kills (3.51) and ninth in hitting percentage (.292) this season. Quinn was also spectacular against Yale, recording 21 kills.
Of course, those two will need their teammates to contribute, including reigning Rookie of the Week Ginny Willis. The freshman setter ranks second in the league with 10.1 assists per set and has handled a series of pressure-packed matches with impressive maturity. Classmates Sarah Hanna (12 kills) and Nicole Kincade (seven kills, three blocks) are coming off strong showings at Harvard last weekend.
Yale leads the Ivy League in hitting percentage (.270), opponent hitting percentage (.156), assists (13.35) and kills (14.71) this year, and it has used a balanced attack to get the job done. Freshmen Allie Frappier and Mollie Rogers are among the Top 10 in Ivy kills, while sophomore setter Kendall Polan leads the league with 10.97 assists per set.
Brown is currently 2-8 in the Ivy League and dropped a 3-0 match to Princeton in Dillon Gym earlier this season. The Bears are led by freshman Maddie Lord, who will be one of Willis' primary challengers to Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors; she ranks fifth in the Ivy League in both kills (3.43 in Ivy matches only) and points (3.81), and she is also in the Top 10 in service aces.