Elis seek to build on strong 2005

Camp Yale was the last thing on the minds of the women’s volleyball team.

While their classmates enjoyed their last few hours of summer, the Elis spent hours a day serving, spiking and setting. Now they are ready to travel to Long Island for the Stony Brook Tournament to kick off a new season.

The volleyball team has been working hard to build on its stellar 2005 season: The Elis’ impressive performance last year produced a 20-4 record, 11-3 Ivy, and for the first time ever, three Yale players — starting setter Jacqueline Becker ’06, middle Renee Lopes ’06 and outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 — were named first team All-Ivy players. The Elis anticipate more of the same.

Captain Anja Perlebach ’07 said this year’s preseason was the best she’s experienced at Yale.

“Rather than play catch-up, we were able to start making progress right away,” Perlebach said.

Although the Bulldogs graduated five strong players last spring, the Class of 2010 has great potential. Yale head coach Erin Appleman said she has been impressed by the strong leadership of Perlebach and Farrell, as well as the athleticism of the four freshmen — outside hitters Alexis Crusey ’10, Lydia Mailander ’10 and Julia Mailander ’10 all won state championships in their senior year of high school, as did middle Laurel Johnson ’10.

“We lost a lot of different personalities, good players and good people,” Perlebach said. “Although our chemistry is going to be different, I don’t think it will be any weaker. I think it will be as strong or stronger.”

Some returning Elis have stepped up to fill the shoes of key players who have graduated, especially those of Becker. Perlebach said setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 has embraced her new role and has taken control of the position.

“She has really done what we needed her to do, and she has become more comfortable every day,” Perlebach said.

Although Appleman scheduled a tough preseason, Perlebach said she thinks the team will be better prepared to take on some of its toughest rivals.

“It is good for us, heading into Ivy season knowing that we had a tough preseason and knowing we haven’t been taking it easy,” she said.

This weekend, the Bulldogs will go up against the 2005 MAAC champion Siena College; Stonybrook College, which finished second in the America East conference tournament; and Ohio University, whose volleyball team advanced to the regional finals of the 2005 NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs said they have been focusing on all aspects of their game in preparation.

Outside hitter Nicole Perkins ’08, one of five returning juniors, said the first tournament is especially important because the other teams have six or seven games under their belt each. The Elis said they are excited to go out and face another team across the net to prove that their hard work will pay off.

“[This weekend] is a big challenge and it will bring out character,” Perkins said. “I think we’ll put up a great fight.”

While Appleman said she does not like imposing expectations on her team, she thinks the past few years have raised the Yale community’s expectations of the volleyball team, as it has recently become a popular spectator sport among Yalies.

“They [the fans] are our seventh player,” Appleman said. “They truly are part of the team.”

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