Going into this past weekend, the women’s volleyball team had high hopes to emerge at the top of the Ancient Eight with wins over two Ivy League opponents. Instead, the Bulldogs (8-7, 3-4 Ivy) suffered two disappointing defeats on the road to Dartmouth 1-3 (32-30, 24-30, 27-30, 25-30) on Saturday afternoon and Harvard 0-3 (25-30, 19-30, 24-30) Friday evening.
This season Yale has yet to clinch a road victory not played at a neutral site. The two losses pushed Yale back to the fifth-place slot in the League while Harvard remains in the first place position.
Head coach Erin Appleman said she was not pleased with the way her team performed over the weekend.
“I am pretty disappointed with the lack of effort that we showed against both Harvard and Dartmouth,” Appleman said. “It was clear that my players did not understand the importance of the weekend.”
In the Bulldogs’ Saturday match-up against the Big Green in Hanover, N.H., Yale still appeared to be reeling from Friday’s loss to the Crimson. Dartmouth out-hit and out-dug Yale, with the Big Green hitting .325 to Yale’s .276 and beating Yale 91-77 on digs.
“We were just not ready to compete,” Appleman said. “We had a number of opportunities that we did not capitalize on, and we forgot that anybody can beat anybody at home.”
A few Yale players did post respectable numbers against the Big Green, including setter Jacqueline Becker ’06, who recorded her first triple-double of the season with 11 kills, 53 assists and 13 digs. Outside hitter and team captain Jana Freeman ’05 led the Bulldogs with 20 kills and 11 digs as well.
Another player worth mention was last week’s co-Ivy League player of the week, outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07. After suffering a sprained ankle during practice, Farrell put forth a noteworthy effort in this weekend’s competition, including notching 16 kills and 16 digs against Dartmouth.
“I must say that I was very proud of Shannon’s efforts,” Appleman said. “She played hurt this weekend, and her performance was admirable.”
Yale players said Friday evening’s game against Harvard did not reflect the preparedness of the team heading into the match or into the weekend.
“We were definitely fired up going into the weekend,” outside hitter Anja Perlebach ’07 said. “What happened was that both teams simply outplayed us. They had individuals step up and play great matches while we struggled.”
Crimson outside hitters dominated the Yale defense, as Nilly Schweitzer slammed 14 kills and Laura Mahon and Katie Turley-Mahoney each recorded 13 kills. Middle blocker Kaego Ogbechie contributed to the attacks with eight kills of her own, and, most notably, two service aces and three solo blocks.
“[Harvard] had a very good front line, and we had a hard time adjusting,” Becker said. “Kaego Ogbechie had a strong performance, as did their outside hitters.”
With half of their conference games still to play, the Elis must regroup this week in practice and try to salvage the remainder of the season if they hope to have a shot at an Ivy League title. But Perlebach and her teammates said at this point in the season the title was not the team’s primary goal.
“I don’t think we can focus on the Ivy title,” Perlebach said. “We need to focus on one match at a time. You can’t expect the big picture to come together if you can’t find the smaller pieces, and right now we need to start small.”
The Bulldogs will continue their quest for their first victory as a visiting team when they take on both Penn and Princeton this weekend. With seven matches left to play, the Elis still have time to bounce back and make an impact within the conference, but the road to redemption promises to be a long one.