The women’s volleyball team proved last night that it has not lost last season’s penchant for come-from-behind victories.
The Elis (2-1), who rallied to a 2004 Ivy League title after a dismal 3-4 conference start, overcame early deficits in all three games to down the University of Connecticut (4-3), 3-0 (30-25, 30-19, 31-29). Despite last year’s successes, the Bulldogs are still considered the underdogs by many of their competitive opponents, a mistake which teams are quickly learning is dangerous to make.
“I think perhaps they weren’t expecting us to be as good as we are,” captain Christy Paluf ’06 said. “But we took advantage of that and knocked them out.”
The Elis attribute their ability to recover from these deficits to a commitment to teamwork and a dependable defense. One of the Bulldogs’ strengths is that the team does not have a single standout player, but instead focuses on how to function as a cohesive team. Four Elis added more than five kills to the win, and three recorded digs in the double digits.
“I feel like we fought hard as a team,” libero Anja Perlebach ’07 said. “We didn’t start hard in the games, but we just pulled together as a team. We knew that if we all did our jobs, we’d win.”
Though the Bulldogs opened their season less than a week ago, they are already starting to see players mesh into an effective unit on the court.
“[The team chemistry] is surprisingly good right now, even though we only have three games under our belt,” setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 said. “I think we’re playing together; we’re a lot more gelled than some teams that have played 10 games.”
The problems the Elis do have are mental ones, Becker said. The typical mental errors that occur in the beginning of the season have followed the Bulldogs through their first three games, though the team is confident that more time on the court will bring about smarter, more consistent play.
“I think sometimes we let the tempo of the game get away from us,” Paluf said. “We need to just slow down and take control and just do what we do well.”
It certainly did not help the Huskies that their usually dominant offense was faltering. Despite several strong individual performances — Heather Ashley had 15 kills, and Brittany Stewart added 13 kills and 14 digs to UConn’s efforts — the Huskies could not find their stride. UConn had a meager .109 hitting percentage in the first game and .114 in the second.
“They’re a pretty powerful team,” Perlebach said. “They just try to get a big kill every time. We knew that if we played our own game and got into rallies with them, our defense would come through.”
Though the Bulldogs got major contributions from all of their players, a few made particularly strong showings. Outside hitter Kali Nelson ’08 led the Elis with 12 kills while outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 added eight kills and 17 digs. Libero Maribeth Martens ’08, who had 10 digs, and outside hitter Courtney Hall ’09, who added six, played particularly strong matches, Yale head coach Erin Appleman said.
The win over UConn was the Bulldog’s last road match before their first home games of the season at this weekend’s Yale Invitational, where Yale will face Quinnipiac, St. Francis and Holy Cross.