Vball skid ends in N.Y.

Following a tough loss to Princeton at home on Oct. 21, this weekend was all about getting back on track for the Yale women’s volleyball team. Unfortunately, the team hit one more Big Red speed bump before it was able to pick up its eighth Ivy League victory of the season.

The Bulldogs(13-6, 8-2 Ivy) regained their stride in a three-game sweep of Columbia (30-11, 31-29, 30-22). But the New York road trip was not wholly successful, as the Cornell Big Red (14-8, 8-2) handed Yale (26-30, 30-24, 30-28, 30-19) a 3-1 loss , only its second of the season, the previous night.

Outside hitter Alexis Crusey ’10 once again led the way, compiling 21 kills and 12 digs in the losing effort in Ithaca, and followed that with 19 kills and 15 digs in the victory over Columbia. Outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 racked up 15 kills and 14 digs and hit .419 against Columbia to add to her 19 kills and seven digs from the night before. Setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 averaged 52 assists over the two-match set.

Based on records alone, the Elis probably anticipated two very different opponents this past weekend. Yet while Yale was suffering its second-straight defeat at the hands of Cornell, Columbia (6-13, 1-9) was picking up its first Ancient Eight victory on Friday night with a close 3-2 win over visiting Brown. The Elis came into Manhattan stumbling while the Lions appeared to be on a mild surge. This dynamic made for some unanticipated pressure for the Bulldogs, but there were no surprises after the whistle blew. The Elis made quick work of Columbia and found themselves back on the right track for the final four games of the season.

“There was a sense of urgency,” outside hitter Kali Nelson ’08 said. “We came out with emotional and mental focus. There wasn’t one specific aspect of our game we focused on.”

Head coach Erin Appleman shook up her usual lineup when she took her team to Columbia, giving additional playing time to two talented freshmen, Lydia Mailander ’10 and Laurel Johnson ’10, who had not seen much action to this point in their rookie seasons. Mailander came up big, posting career highs with 10 kills and 12 digs.

“It was important to start right away and get up early and quick, that really helped us,” Appleman said. “I played [Mailander and Johnson] because at that time, they were the best people to play.”

Columbia managed to hit only .153 as a team in the match and had no standout performers.

Cornell, on the other hand, played very solid volleyball on Friday night, evoking memories of its form from last season, when the team captured the Ivy League title. Although they may not have brought their best to New Haven earlier in the year, the Big Red gave the Bulldogs more than they could handle on Friday night in Ithaca.

“The first time, we came out with a lot more intensity and fight,” Nelson said. “It just wasn’t the same this time.”

Big Red outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop, a three-time First-Team All-Ivy selection, put up a dominant performance, posting 22 kills and 10 digs. Middle blocker Joanna Weiss, another of Cornell’s talented weapons, put up 14 kills and four blocks in the Cornell win, its eighth in Ivy play this year.

“The first time, we were conscious of Weiss and Bishop,” Farrell said in an interview last week. “But we knew we had to focus on basic fundamentals that were lost last week [against Princeton].”

The Bulldogs now sit tied with Cornell atop the Ancient Eight at 8-2. They still control their own destiny, but they now have a competitor who has the same opportunity. The final four games of the season, two on the road and two at home, will all prove pivotal in deciding this year’s Ivy League champion.

The Bulldogs will hit the road on Friday for the final time this season, traveling to Princeton to avenge the earlier loss to the Tigers, and then to Philadelpia on Saturday to face a Penn team they already beat 3-0 in their first meeting of the season.

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