The Yale volleyball team’s dominance continued last weekend, and now they have an Ivy League title to show for it.
The Bulldogs (18–7, 12–2 Ivy) won their second conference title in three years after two straight-set weekend victories against Columbia (16–9, 8–6) (25–21, 25–19, 27–25) and Cornell (4–20, 2–12) (25–20, 25–21, 25–21). The wins capped a 10-match winning streak since the Bulldogs’ two losses against Penn and Princeton early in the season.
“This entire season has been a battle for our team and we overcame it all because of our ability to work as a unit,” captain Kelly Ozurovich ’11 said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way this team has grown together. We have an unbreakable chemistry on and off the court, which made us so successful this season.”
In their match against Columbia, the Bulldogs earned a hard fought 3–0 victory. Though the Bulldogs got off to a quick start in the first set, the Lions fought back to level the score at 3–3. The teams traded points until Columbia rode a 3–0 run to a 16–13 advantage. But the Elis didn’t let up, and came back on a 4–1 run to tie the score at 17–17. The Bulldogs then scored eight of the next 12 points to take the set 25–21.
“Columbia has developed into a good program,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “They have nice talent and they have done a great job recruiting. Any time you go on the road, every team can be tough.”
The Bulldogs coasted to a victory in the second set, and never trailed. The closest the Lions came to challenging the lead was at 11–10, following a Columbia block by Monique Roberts and Megan Gaughn. The Elis went on to win the set 25–19.
In the final set, the Elis and Lions stayed close throughout the set. Columbia took its largest lead of the match early in the game, 4–1, but the Bulldogs came back and tied the game at 7–7. Yale took the lead and would hold it for the remainder of the game; however, the Lions kept the score close after putting together multiple runs. But the Bulldogs held on to a narrow victory after an Erica Reetz ’14 kill ended the night, 27–25.
Gaughn led Columbia with four blocks, 10 kills and 12 digs. Cindy Chen led the defensive front for the Lions with 18 digs. For the Bulldogs, Bridget Hearst ’12 lead the team with a match-high 14 kills while Erica Reetz ’14 added 12. Kendall Polan ’14 lead the team in both digs and assists with 23 and 28, respectively. Ozurovich followed close behind Polan with 20 digs.
“This team has had a lot of adversity, but they were able to able to overcome it and bond with each other,” Appleman said. “That is why we were successful. We played team volleyball all the time.”
The Elis travelled to Ithaca, N.Y., the next day to attempt to seal up the conference title. Even though Cornell was the last-place team in the Ivy League, the Big Red, despite losing in straight sets, still posed a challenge for the Bulldogs.
Throughout a majority of the first set, the teams kept the score close with nine ties and three lead changes. But the Bulldogs took command of the set late with a five-point lead, 21–16. They would not let go of that advantage and finished the set 25–20.
Like the first set, neither Cornell nor Yale could hold a lead early in the second set. Yale took a convincing 15–9 lead after an 8-3 run, but the Big Red stormed back and brought the score within one, 21–20. However, Yale pulled away with the set win, 25–21, on a Hearst kill and Ozurovich ace.
The Bulldogs ran away with the match in the third set and never trailed after getting off to a quick start with a 6–2 lead. Despite the Big Red’s attempts to cut that lead, the best they were able to do was to reduce the Yale advantage to three. The final score of the set was 25–21.
“Cornell has some really gifted players and are a talented team,” Appleman said. “They are an offensive treat and I knew it would be a battle.”
Erin McCarthy led the Cornell team with 12 digs. Kelly Hansen led the Big Red offensive effort with 12 kills and a .276 hitting percentage.
Polan had another strong performance with 27 assists and 18 digs. Hearst notched a team-best 11 kills. Three players, including Hearst, notched more than 10 kills for the Bulldogs.
The Elis now must await the result of the match between Princeton and Penn. A Princeton victory would guarantee Yale a spot in the NCAA tournament as the Bulldogs would have sole ownership of the conference title.
“Now that we’ve finished our regular season of Ivy play, we’re focusing on what lies ahead,” Ozurovich said. “Whether that’s a match this weekend or in two weeks, we are already starting to prepare.”