Last weekend, the Yale women’s volleyball team helped usher in the reign of newly inaugurated President Salovey with two home wins over conference rivals.
In the team’s last home games until November, the Bulldogs (11–3, 5–0 Ivy) took on perennial conference rivals Penn (8–8, 2–3) and Princeton (6–9, 2–3). The Elis extended their winning streak, defeating both schools three sets to one.
On Friday as they faced off against Penn, the Elis controlled the first two sets and held the Quakers to just 15 total kills on negative hitting percentages. But Penn overcame its slow start in the third set and gained a strong 18–8 lead over the Bulldogs. Yale fought back and tied it at 25-all, but the Quakers perservered and scored twice to win the set 27–25. Penn recorded 16 kills –— more than their first two sets combined — and outhit the Elis 0.286 to 0.250.
“They really stepped up their defense,” outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 said. “They were a lot more dynamic and we had to adjust to that.”
A revitalized Penn kept the fourth set competitive; the largest lead either team held was just five points. In the end, the Quakers could not match the firepower of the Elis, in particular that of setter Kelly Johnson ’16. She erupted for eight kills, three assists and a service ace in the final set to lead the Elis to victory. She ended the match with a 14-kill, 18-assist, 16-dig triple double.
“I think the team really clicked in that fourth set,” Johnson said. “We realized we needed to take control. We showed that we can do great things when we play together.”
Rounding out the effort, libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 recorded a team-high 24 digs and middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16 scored 12 kills on a 0.522 hitting clip in addition to seven digs and a block.
In Saturday’s game, Princeton came out assertively in the first set and at one point held a commanding 20–9 lead. The Elis narrowed the gap to three points, but the Tigers proved too much and took the first set 25–21. Johnson said the Elis lacked aggressiveness coming into the set.
“We made a lot of errors as a team it caught us off guard,” Johnson said. “That first loss snapped us back into it and we realized we needed to get it together.”
The Bulldogs bounced back strong behind Captain Kendall Polan ’14. Polan took charge in the second set with her deft serving and playmaking, scoring two straight service aces and setting up Johnson for a pair of kills to give Yale a 7–1 lead. The Elis only trailed once by a single point over the last three sets and their average margin of victory was nine.
“[Polan] helps us out a lot when we’re in tough spots,” Rogers said. “Sometimes it starts with one person making a good play and getting a few aces and that gives confidence to the team and everyone else steps up.”
Polan finished with a match-leading 33 assists and 17 digs while Rogers produced a 13-kill, 13-dig double-double. Johnson had her second triple-double of the weekend with 13 kills, 13 assists and 14 digs.
The Elis will head to Cornell next week for the start of a five-match road trip. Rogers said the team’s experience at preseason games in D.C. and Pennsylvania last month will help on the road next week.
“It’s a bigger challenge, but that’s what we try to do,” Rogers said. “We want to go to their campus and beat their team.”
Yale will play Cornell on Friday in Ithaca, N.Y. and Columbia on Saturday in New York.