Last season, the Yale volleyball team began an unprecedented 14–0 run in the Ivy League conference by defeating Brown three sets to one. Last weekend, the Elis had a chance to do it again as they matched up against the Bears at home to start their conference slate.
Led by a strong performance from their captain, setter Kendall Polan ’14, the Elis (7–3, 1–0 Ivy) dispatched the Bears (4–7, 0–1 Ivy) in a dominating fashion, winning in straight sets.
“Kendall is such a great captain because she leads by example,” setter Kelly Johnson ’16 said. “She’s so great to play with because she’s always someone you can trust.”
Polan produced her usual well–rounded stat–line — eight kills, 23 assists, and 10 digs — and the team responded in turn. Johnson led the team with nine kills on .412 hitting, in addition to her 17 assists. Libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 led the team on defense with 14 digs.
“When [Polan is] playing well, everything goes smoothly,” Ebner said.
And smoothly it did go. For the match, the Bulldogs boasted a 44–22 lead in kills and 59–39 advantage in digs. They hit .239 and held the opposition to a dismal .027 kill percentage.
The Bulldogs did not trail for a single point until the third set.
“We wanted to start strong,” Ebner said. “I think holding them to that low percentage shows how hard we worked on defense this past week.”
The Bulldogs had five players with at least seven kills and four with at least 10 digs. Their 57 match points were spread relatively evenly; four players scored in double digits, and Polan was nearly there with 9.5 points.
Ebner said the Elis learned from their encounter with the Bears last year and focused on blocking Brown’s right side, which was particularly effective in their 2012 season opener.
The Elis had more success with their defense this time around. Brown’s high scorers in last year’s matchup were outside hitter Maddie Lord and opposite hitter Amanda Nickel, who produced 15.5 and 16.0 points, respectively. On Saturday, the Bulldogs held them to just three points each. No player on the Bears recorded more than 6.5 points.
“I think we focused on staying calm,” Johnson said. “Brown is really good at certain shots and we were focusing on playing really strong on our side and not letting them affect us.”
With this win in the record book, the Elis will continue their quest to repeat last year’s undefeated season this weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth.
While repeating may seem daunting, even impossible, the team is up to the challenge. Ebner and Johnson said the key success will be to take the season one game at a time.
“We can definitely go undefeated again this year,” Ebner said. “We’re a better team than anyone else in the Ivy League and it’s on us to just execute and stay focused for every match.”
The Elis play Harvard at 7 p.m. on Friday.