VOLLEYBALL: Undefeated Bulldogs trounce Cornell, Columbia

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Photo by William Freedberg.

For the Yale volleyball team, it does not seem to matter if the game is at home or away. For the past two years, the Elis have been piling up wins to remain undefeated in the conference since 2011.

The Elis (13–3, 7–0 Ivy) extended their winning streak last weekend, beating Cornell (6–11, 2–5) and Columbia (5–11, 3–4) by scores of 3–0 and 3–1, respectively. In their first road trip of the season, the Bulldogs overcame the challenge of facing Ivy competitors and their opposing crowds.

“I think the team stayed really focused,” outside hitter Brittani Steinberg ’17 said. “We brought our own energy. I think that’s what helped us be so successful.”

On Friday, Yale went largely unopposed in the first two sets, winning 25–12 and 25–18, before Cornell came out swinging in the third. The Big Red led by as much as five midway through the game, but an 8–3 run by the Elis tied the set at 22. Yale kept calm under the pressure and a kill by outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15, sandwiched in between a pair of errors by Cornell, clinched the win.

“It’s very important to have confidence in yourself [in late game situations] and not let the score get into your head,” captain Kendall Polan ’14 said. “We just had to perform at a higher level than we had been playing.”

Polan dominated the assists category to lead both teams with 32 to go along with her 11 digs. Setter Kelly Johnson ’16 led the team in kills with 12, while outside hitters Steinberg and Mollie Rogers ’15 each produced 11. Steinberg’s kills came on an impressive 0.500 hitting percentage.

The Bulldogs found more competition when they went down to the big city to face the Tigers on Saturday. After pulling away early to lead 7–0, Yale withstood a late assault by Columbia to take the first set 25–21. The Elis would carry that momentum into the second set to win 25–12. But Columbia came back strong for the third set and scored a pair of kills to break a 23-all tie. The Tigers forced a fourth set, causing Yale to regroup.

“We needed to focus more on what we were doing instead of on what they were doing,” Poland said. “We just needed to play our game.”

The Elis wasted no time building a 20–11 lead in the final round. The Tigers never recovered and eventually succumbed to a 25–15 loss.

Middle blocker Maya Midzik ’16 and libero Tori Shepherd ’17 recorded season highs with 10 kills and 10 digs, respectively. In total, the Elis had four players record kills in the double digits and four with at least 10 digs.

“It goes to show the depth in our team,” Polan said. “Anyone who isn’t playing could easily be starting on our team and would really be a big contributor.”

Polan once again made her mark by setting up her teammates with 48 of the team’s 61 assists, but it was Steinberg’s 20 kills on a 0.514 hitting percentage that stole the day. Steinberg said the team’s passing was particularly strong on Saturday and helped set her up for several one-on-one plays.

With the coming of fall break, the Elis will now have time to recuperate before heading to Providence, R.I. to face Brown on Saturday.

“It’ll be nice not to have to worry about school,” Johnson said. “It’ll be a mental break for us, but physically we’ll still be practicing every day getting ready for Brown. It’ll be a great match.”

The Elis will play Brown 5 p.m. on Saturday.

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