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Women's Volleyball Season Preview

Yale's Kendall Polan

Photo courtesy of Yale Sports Publicity

PRINCETON, N.J. -- The 36th season of Ivy League women's volleyball hits the courts this weekend with all eight teams in action in early season tournaments.

Penn and Yale, winners of the last four Ivy titles, are the only League squad playing at home over the first two days of the regular-season on Friday, Aug. 31 and Saturday, Sept. 1.

Two-time defending champion Yale begins its title defense as host of the Yale Classic with Texas A&M, Stony Brook and American coming to New Haven. The Bulldogs return four all-Ivy selections, including 2011 Player of the Year Kendall Polan and 2011 Rookie of the Year Mollie Rogers.

Penn hosts Philadelphia-area foes Temple, La Salle and Villanova in the annual Big 5 Tournament at The Palestra to open the season. The Quakers look to reclaim the League's top spot with 11 returning letterwinners and a strong freshman class. Senior right-side hitter Lauren Martin once again lead the Quaker attack after leading the team in kills per set (3.00) a year ago.

The six other Ivy squad are all on the road competing in tournaments from New York to Virginia to Florida to Colorado.

Poised make a run at its first League title since 2007, Princeton opens at the Hofstra Invitational against St. Francis (N.Y.), Siena and the host Pride. Senior outside hitter Lydia Rudnick is Tigers' go-to player in 2012 coming off a year where she led the Ivy League with 3.85 kills per set and led Princeton to a second-place finish.

For the second straight year, Columbia had its best season in program history in 2011, finishing third behind Yale and Princeton. The Lions aim for their first-ever League championship paced by their senior duo of outside hitter Megan Gaughn and middle blocker Heather Braunagel. Columbia kicks off 2012 in the Sunshine State, taking on Jacksonville, Liberty and host Central Florida in the Courtyard by Marriott/UCF Classic.

Dartmouth starts the year with two BCS opponents, Connecticut and Michigan State, along with Fairfield in the UConn Toyota Classic. The Big Green's 2012 team is a young one, composed of just two seniors, along with four juniors, five sophomores and five promising freshmen. Having graduated top performers Madeline Baird and Annie Villanueva last season, Dartmouth look to senior setter Alissa Santa Maria and senior right-side hitter Kylie Kufled for leadership.

Senior outside hitter Taylor Docter leads Harvard's hopes to move back into the top half of the League this year. The second-team All-Ivy and Academic All-Ivy selection returns after ending her junior year eighth in the conference in kills per set (3.05), seventh in aces (0.27) and seventh in points per set (3.52).

Cornell comes into 2012 under new head coach at the helm with Melissa Batie-Smoose, who has spent nearly 20 years coaching at nearly every collegiate level, taking over a Big Red program that has experienced five-straight losing seasons. Junior outside hitters Kelly Marble and Janel Forte lead the charge offensively as Cornell starts the season out west in the Omni Hotels Colorado Volleyball Classic against Fresno State, Northern Arizona and the host Buffaloes.

Brown is in Central Connecticut State Invitational to begin the season, facing Holy Cross on Friday and St. John's and the host Blue Devils on Saturday. Outside hitter Maddie Lord returns for her sophomore campaign and looks to improve upon her team-leading 3.28 kills per set, which ranked fourth in the League.

2011 Recap
Yale claimed its first outright Ivy League championship since the 2008 season, finishing 12-2 to earn the League's automatic NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship berth. The Bulldogs extended their streak of double-digit conference victories totals to eight seasons en route to their third outright title and seventh overall.

Yale advanced to the NCAA Tournament to face top-ranked and seventh-seeded Southern California on the Trojans' home court. The Bulldogs fought hard throughout the match it would be USC coming away with the straight-sets win (25-13, 25-13, 25-18) in first-round action.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

Friday, August 31
1-Cornell vs. Fresno State, 11 am
2-Columbia at Central Florida, 1 pm
3-Middle Tennessee State vs. Harvard, 4 pm
4-Princeton vs. St. Francis (N.Y.), 4:30 pm
2-Columbia vs. Liberty, 6 pm
6-Brown vs. Holy Cross, 7 pm
1-Cornell at Colorado, 7 pm
5-Temple at Penn, 7 pm
7-Texas A&M at Yale, 7 pm
8-Dartmouth at Connecticut, 7:30 pm

Saturday, September 1

8-Dartmouth vs. Michigan State, 10 am
5-La Salle at Penn, 10 am
6-Brown vs. St. John's, 11 am
4-Princeton vs. Siena, 11 am
3-Harvard at Virginia Tech, 12:30 pm
2-Columbia vs. Jacksonville, 4 pm
7-Stony Brook at Yale, 5 pm
3-Towson vs. Harvard, 5 pm
8-Dartmouth vs. Fairfield, 5 pm
6-Brown at Central Connecticut State, 5:30 pm
1-Northern Arizona vs. Cornell, 6 pm
5-Villanova at Penn, 7 pm
7-American at Yale, 7 pm
4-Princeton at Hofstra, 7:30 pm
 
KEY:
1-Omni Hotels Colorado Volleyball Classic, Boulder, Colo.
2-Courtyard by Marriott/UCF Classic, Orlando, Fla.
3-Hilton Garden Inn Hokie Invitational, Blacksburg, Va.
4-Hofstra Invitational, Hempstead, N.Y.
5-Big 5 Tournament, Philadelphia
6-CCSU Invitational, New Britain, Conn.
7-Yale Classic, New Haven, Conn.
8-UConn Toyota Classic, Storrs, Conn.


PLAYER OF THE WEEK

The first Player of the Week will be announced on Tuesday, Sept. 4.  

ROOKIE OF THE WEEK
The first Player of the Week will be announced on Tuesday, Sept. 4.  


WEEKLY AWARD HISTORY
Player of the Week
School Last Occurrence Player
Brown September 28, 2010 Kathryn Glickman
Columbia September 21, 2010 Megan Gaughn
Cornell November 8, 2011
Madeleine Przybyl
Dartmouth November 15, 2011* Annie Villanueva
Harvard September 25, 2008 Suzie Trimble
Penn November 18, 2010 Julia Swanson
Princeton November 15, 2011*
Lydia Rudnick
Yale October 11, 2011
Taylor Cramm
     
Rookie of the Week
School
Last Occurrence Player
Brown September 6, 2011 Maddie Lord
Columbia October 11, 2011
Caitlin Brenton
Cornell October 5, 2010 Rachel D'Epagnier
Dartmouth November 1, 2011* Alex Schoenberger
Harvard October 12, 2010 Teresa Skelly
Penn November 15, 2011* Emma White
Princeton November 1, 2011*
Ginny Willis
Yale November 15, 2011*
Mollie Rogers

*Shared honor