Going into the weekend, the Yale volleyball team knew how crucial its two upcoming Ivy League contests were for its chances of winning the league. A weekend sweep later and the Elis still find themselves in the running for the Ancient Eight championship.
Playing in New Haven for the first time in three weeks, the Bulldogs (11-5, 5-2 Ivy) made use of their home court advantage, defeating Cornell (6-11, 3-4) in four games Friday night — 30-16, 30-14, 29-31, 30-19 — before rolling over Columbia (3-15, 0-7) in three games Saturday — 30-19, 30-24, 30-22 — to complete the successful weekend.
After splitting games on the road the past two weekends, the wins over the Lions and the Big Red brought the Bulldogs one step closer to the top of the Ivy League standings. Heading into Friday night’s contest, Yale was tied for third place with Penn, behind Dartmouth (12-6, 5-3) and Princeton (15-3, 7-0). By Sunday morning, Yale found itself tied for second place with the Quakers after the two Eli victories and two Dartmouth losses.
“The wins were really important for us,” outside hitter Lydia Mailander ’10 said. “We hadn’t swept a weekend for a while, and it kept us in the running to achieve our season goal of winning the Ivy League.”
Yale got off to a quick start Friday night, going up two games to none in a dominating fashion and winning by a combined 60-30. The third game proved to be more of a struggle as the Big Red picked up their only win of the match, a seesaw affair that ended 31-29 in Cornell’s favor.
But the Bulldogs bounced back quickly in game four and won the match decisively after amassing a .265 hitting percentage.
Bouncing back to win the match was important for the players.
“In previous matches, we’ve struggled after losing a game,” libero Kelly Ozurovich ’11 said. “This time we did what we had to do to take control and win.”
The win was especially satisfying given the opponent. Cornell is the two-time defending Ivy League champion and has proven to be a difficult opponent for Yale over the past few years. The stakes for several recent matches between the rivals have been high, including those of a late-season 2005 match that determined the Ivy League champion and the recipient of a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
“This win was also great on a personal level,” outside hitter Nicole Perkins ’08 said. “Cornell has been a big adversary, and beating them was fulfilling.”
The Bulldogs had a slightly easier time with Columbia the following night. Yale easily handled the Lions from beginning to end in its three-game sweep, outhitting Columbia .261 to .074.
The match saw contributions from a number of players. Twelve different Bulldogs posted at least one kill, and Perkins posted 12. Newcomers Kate Parker ’11 and Katie Fitzpatrick ’11 were inserted late in the match and provided great play for head coach Erin Appleman. Parker had a kill and three assists and Fitzpatrick had two kills and a solo block.
Many of the players relished the shared contributions, citing not only on-court advantages but also the sense of camaraderie that goes beyond the gymnasium.
“This team is incredibly close,” Perkins said. “It’s much more than just team chemistry. We’re all close friends, and just seeing all of your friends on the court contributing is great.”
The Elis hope to build off the momentum at home next weekend as they look to sweep the season series against Harvard on Friday night and avenge an earlier loss to Dartmouth on Saturday afternoon.