It may have already clinched the Ivy League title, but the Yale volleyball team continued to compete with the same intensity as always this past weekend.
In their final two conference matches of the season, the Elis were victorious against Princeton and Penn, winning 3–1 and 3–0, respectively.
The Elis (19–4, 13–1 Ivy) were slow out of the gate on Friday against the Tigers (10–14, 6–8). Despite recording just one fewer kill than Princeton, the Bulldogs fell 25–18 in the first set.
In previous matches Yale has played tentatively early on, but almost always comes back strong. In the five matches this year in which the Elis have dropped the first set, they are 3–2. The two losses came at the hands of No. 6 Missouri and Harvard, who snapped the Elis’ 23-game conference winning streak.
“I don’t think we’re too concerned about it,” captain Kendall Polan ’14 said of Yale’s slow start on Friday. “It’s definitely something we need to work on, but I don’t think it’s something we have to really worry about.”
The Elis bounced back in the second set with a convincing 25–16 victory, forcing Princeton into 10 errors and a 0.000 hitting percentage. Yale’s defense and offense were in sync for the rest of the match, as they recorded 41 kills on a 0.367 hitting percentage through the final three sets. Princeton had 35 kills on just a 0.115 percentage in the same span.
Middle blocker Maya Midzik ’16 recorded 11 kills, four digs, one block solo and three block assists to pace the Elis. Outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 contributed with a 13-kill, 11-dig double-double, while Polan finished the match with 45 assists.
“Having the Ivy League title was comforting,” Rogers said. “We were able to play more loosely, and coach kept telling us to keep going for it.”
On Saturday, the Elis took the court against Penn for their final Ivy League match of the season. The Quakers (14–11, 8–6), who were coming off a 3–2 loss at home against Brown the previous night, looked to bounce back strong against the Ivy League champs.
In contrast to their start on Friday night, the Elis came out swinging. Yale recorded 17 kills in the first set and secured a comfortable 25–15 win. In the second set, the Elis stepped up their defense. Once again, Yale forced its opponent into double-digit errors (11) and a 0.000 kill percentage, winning the set 25–17. In the final set, the Bulldogs never trailed and cruised to a 25–21 victory.
Rogers again led the team in kills with 14, while Midzik and setter Kelly Johnson ’16 each recorded six block assists. Johnson also had 11 kills and seven digs.
The Elis displayed impressive blocking in both matches over the weekend. Yale rejected Princeton 12 times on Friday before recording 11 blocks against the Quakers the night after.
“We work really hard on [blocking] in practice,” Rogers said. “It’s really impressive when we can face a team and have a lot of blocks. It shows that our hard work is paying off.”
Polan put the finishing touches to her Ivy career with a 36-assist, 11-dig effort, solidifying her legacy as one of Yale’s all-time great volleyball players. Polan ranks in the top 10 in both assists and digs for Yale and played an integral role on four Ivy championship teams.
“It’s awesome that me, [McHaney Carter ’15], and [Erica Reetz ’14] were able to be so successful in the last four years,” Polan said. “But mostly we’re just focused on the games ahead.”
The Elis will now have a week off before they head to New York to take on Stony Brook (16–16, 9–5 AEC) and conclude their regular season. They will then have to wait for the Selection Show on Dec. 1 to learn who their opponent will be in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Rogers said the team is anxious to learn who it will be matched up against, adding that the team hopes to be sent to a warmer climate state like California. But she emphasized that the Elis will be looking to get even better in the coming weeks.
“It’s just about trying to get better,” Rogers said. “We want to take these next couple of weeks and just work hard to be a better team and be better individually, as well. We want to be as prepared as we can be for the tournament.”
The Elis will take on the Seawolves on Nov. 26.