Volleyball breezes past Ivy League competitors

Volleyball is a game of momentum, and the women’s volleyball team has about all the momentum it needs to continue its Ivy League title run after two big road wins this past weekend.

The Elis (11-4, 6-0 Ivy) returned from their trip unscathed after downing Harvard (8-8, 2-3), 3-1, on Friday night and Dartmouth (9-7, 3-3), 3-0, on Saturday afternoon. Outside hitter Alexis Crusey ’10 turned in two big games over the weekend, posting 17 kills, 14 digs and three blocks against the Cantabs along with 23 kills, 12 digs and three blocks against the Big Green.

To round out the Elis’ performance, Shannon Farrell ’07 racked up a combined 27 kills and 29 digs in the two games. Libero and captain Anja Perlebach ’07 added a weekend total of 38 digs, and Perlebach moved into fourth place on the list of all-time dig leaders at Yale.

“We showed a lot of maturity,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “We were patient in every game.”

In Friday’s match, the Crimson jumped out early and took the first game from the sluggish Bulldogs. Appleman said she knew the team was not playing to its potential and needed to change its energy level and focus. Her words after the first game loss clearly resonated with the Elis, and they swept the next three games to win the match (24-30, 30-24, 30-26, 30-20).

“We came out slow against Harvard,” outside hitter Kali Nelson ’08 said. “We had to adapt to their middles and just play Yale volleyball.”

The Elis recognized the talent of Harvard’s middle blockers Suzie Trimble (11 kills, 3 blocks) and Katie Turley-Molony (12 kills, 3 blocks). Outside hitter Kathryn McKinley tallied 12 kills and 24 digs, good enough for a double-double, but not good enough for the victory.

Harvard has struggled in league play and now holds a sub-.500 record in the Ancient Eight. The cheers of the Crimson’s sizable home crowd were not enough to deter the Elis in the first leg of their weekend road trip.

Dartmouth came into Saturday’s match on a winning streak of its own, having beaten three Ivy League opponents before facing the Elis. Middle blocker Jess Thomas compiled a respectable 11 kills and 15 digs for the Big Green but could not do enough to upend the surging Bulldogs, who took the match, 30-26, 30-26, 30-21.

“We had to match [Darmouth’s] defense,” Appleman said. “Shannon and [Setter] Ally [Mendenhall ’09] were exceptional on defense, and Alexis Crusey was unstoppable offensively. It was the best she’s played offensively.”

Mendenhall said good defense can frustrate the other team and can keep the opposing squad from executing its offense. The Elis combined for 58 digs and 11 blocks during the match.

The 3-0 victory kept Yale perfect in Ancient Eight play and gave the Bulldogs a nice shot of confidence.

“Overall, I was pleased with the weekend,” Mendenhall said. “And we did it on the road, which is always more difficult.”

The women return home for two matches this weekend and will look to continue their Ancient Eight winning steak. The Bulldogs face Penn on Friday at 7 p.m. and Princeton on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Lee Amphitheater.

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