This weekend, for the first time all season, the women’s volleyball team showed the Ivy League what it was really capable of.
The Bulldogs swept both Harvard (30-25, 30-23, 30-27) and Dartmouth (30-20, 30-23, 20-26) in two spectacular home performances Saturday afternoon and Friday evening, respectively. The two wins pushed Yale (12-7, 7-4 Ivy) into a tie for third in the Ivy League with Princeton (16-7, 7-4), while Dartmouth (6-16, 3-9) stayed at seventh place and Harvard (14-8, 9-3) clung to the No. 1 slot in the Ancient Eight.
Yale is now just one and a half games back from co-leaders Harvard and Cornell (15-7, 9-3) with three conference matches left to play.
Assistant coach Kevin Laseau said that both he and head coach Erin Appleman were very proud of the Elis’ play this weekend, as it was what they had been expecting from their team all season.
“After the Harvard game, Erin and I thought, ‘That’s it?,’” Laseau said. “All we did was what we are supposed to do — what we should do every game. It is such a simple thing, but it’s a hard thing to do as well. We knew if we executed a couple of key things we would have success, and that is all we did.”
The Harvard game — which marked a fourth straight Bulldog victory — showed a Yale team very different than the one that took the court against the Crimson two weekends ago. The Crimson and the Bulldogs fought it out all the way through the first game until the Elis gained a small lead at the 24-23 mark. The Bulldogs increased their lead off of two kills from captain outside hitter Jana Freeman ’05 and several Harvard attack errors. Middle blocker Lauren Burke ’05 and outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 finished off the Crimson with a block to end the first game.
The Bulldogs went on to win the second and third games in a similar fashion.
As Laseau said, Yale’s execution of the basics controlled the tempo and the outcome of the game, as many Yale players contributed solid numbers on attacks, digs and service aces. Three players recorded hitting percentages of .450 or greater, with Burke leading the way with a .500 percentage. Freeman led the Elis with 15 kills, while Farrell, middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06 and outside hitter Kali Nelson ’08 each notched 11 of their own.
Libero Anja Perlebach ’07 led the Bulldogs in digs with 16, and setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 coordinated the offense with 42 assists. Burke led the team in service aces with four.
“Lauren [Burke] served great tonight,” Laseau said. “She did exactly what we wanted her to do, which was serve aggressive. She took charge and served bullets at Harvard all night long.”
Freeman said the student support at the Harvard game really made an impact on the way the game panned out for the Elis.
“The fan base was absolutely incredible this weekend,” Freeman said. “The Saybrook kids, the swim team, everyone who came out here to support us really contributed to the energy we needed to sweep both Harvard and Dartmouth in our home gym.”
The Elis also dominated in Friday’s match against the Big Green. Three players recorded double-doubles on the night. Farrell and Freeman both recorded 16 kills and 11 digs, and Becker put up 52 assists and 10 digs. Burke led the front line with a .412 hitting percentage and five blocks. Yale out-hit and out-dug the Big Green .333 to .197 and 75-61.
The taste of victory against Dartmouth was especially sweet for the Elis, who dropped a match to the Big Green two weekends ago in New Hampshire.
“We were all really determined to dominate Dartmouth on Friday after the way we played them away,” Becker said. “I think it goes without saying that we accomplished our goal tonight.”
With just three conference matches remaining, Yale is still in the hunt for the Ivy title, but they are not the only ones in control of their fate. Even if the Bulldogs win the rest of their matches, Harvard and Cornell will each need to drop a match to force a tie for first place.
Laseau said that they are not focusing on possible scenarios but are doing everything they can to make sure they win out from here.
“We have to take care of business on our end,” Laseau said. “As long as we execute game plans, we should be in good shape at the end of the season.”