Looking to right the ship after going 0–3 in Indiana last weekend, the Yale volleyball team travels to Los Angeles this weekend to take on Villanova, No. 20 USC and Howard in the Trojan Invitational.
The Bulldogs (0–3, 0–0 Ivy) will continue to fight against tough competition at the Trojan Invitational hosted by nationally-ranked USC (2–3, 0–0 Pac-12). On Friday, the Elis commence tournament play against Villanova (5–1, 0–0 Big East) and will resume play nine hours later against Southern Cal. On Saturday, the Bulldogs are set to take on Howard (2–6, 0–0 MEAC) at 8 p.m., E.T.
“We’ve been working really hard … taking it day by day, and we are really trying to implement the things we are learning in practice into competitive play,” setter Renee Shultz ’22 said. “The first-years are doing really well and picking up the team atmosphere quickly; we love playing with them, and we love getting to know them.”
The Elis enter the invitational on the heels of three close losses against Power Five schools last weekend. In a five-set nailbiter against Oklahoma, the Elis proved they could hang with a Big 12 foe, while single set victories in their other 3–1 losses proved they could still score considerable points offensively even when outmatched. Notably, senior outside hitter Bekah Nemeth ’20 was named to the All-Tournament team last weekend with a career-high 18 kills against Oklahoma.
Heading into this weekend, the Elis will look to take what they learned from Indiana and go hit for hit with top competition once again. While Villanova is unranked, the Wildcats annually play at a very high level in a conference that boasts several top 25 teams.
“The travel tournaments prep us for league because of the awesome competition we encounter on the road,” middle blocker Izzy Simqu ’20 said. “Big teams make us stronger and smarter and get us hyped for Ivy League season!”
The Trojans may prove to be the Elis’ toughest test of the season. Coming off an NCAA tournament appearance, this top-25 squad will be looking to defend its court in its only home tournament of the season. USC is in just its second year under head coach Brent Crouch. Last season, Crouch led the team to second place in the Pac-12 and a first-round victory in the postseason. The Trojans find themselves among the top teams in the nation and in the Pac-12. The Pac-12 features six of the 12 teams in the top 25, including defending national champion No. 1 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon.
Just last week, the Trojans were ranked as high as 15th, but a 3–2 loss to No. 17 Creighton caused them to drop in the standings. USC will look to redeem itself as it takes on an Ancient Eight opponent on Saturday afternoon.
A win against Howard appears to be in the cards for Yale, but the Elis will still have to fight. The Bison lost to Columbia on Sept. 6, a team that the Bulldogs have consistently outranked in the Ivy League in recent seasons.
All three opponents have played at least twice as many matches than the Elis have at this point in the season, which could prove to be a disadvantage for Yale.
“We’re proud of how we fought last weekend but are still looking to get better everyday and especially in this tournament,” Simqu said.
The Elis take on Villanova on Friday at 1:30 p.m., E.T.
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