Captain Kendall Polan ’14 was busy making history over Thanksgiving Break. On Nov. 21, Polan was selected as Ivy League Player of the Year for a record-breaking third time.
Polan became the first player in conference history to win the award three times, and just the third player to be unanimously selected by the league’s coaches for the honor.
“As cool as it is to win Player of the Year, I am much more excited about our fourth Ivy League title,” Polan said. “Every girl on the team contributes so much to our success that anyone could be named Player of the Year, and I would not be surprised.”
Not to be outdone by their captain, setter Kelly Johnson ’16 and outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 joined Polan on the All-Ivy first team. Outside hitter Brittani Steinberg ’17 and libero Maddie Rudnick ’16 were both selected for the second team.
Yale tied with Harvard in first-team selections (3) and with Penn in overall selections (5).
“I feel so honored to be chosen and I am even happier that I was able to be chosen along with four of my other teammates for All-Ivy teams,” Johnson said. “I owe my selection to my team and my coaches. Without their support and encouragement I would not be in the position I am today.”
But Yale did more than just win awards over the break. On Nov. 26, the Elis took their All-Ivy talent to New York to take on Stony Brook in their last regular season match. The Seawolves (16–18, 9–5 AEC) came into the match having lost three of their last four contests, but proved early on that they were more than capable of competing.
The Elis (20–4, 13–1 Ivy) again got off to a slow start, dropping the first set 25–19.
“We weren’t really ready or prepared,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “We didn’t play very well and Stony played great. Once we settled down we started playing better.”
In the second set, the Bulldogs came alive, smashing 18 kills on a scorching 0.425 hitting percentage. The Elis built an early four-point lead and never looked back as they took the second set 25–18. In the second half of the match, it was the Elis’ defense that kept them on top. Despite posting just a 0.218 hitting percentage over the last two sets, the Bulldogs only allowed 11 kills, while forcing 16 errors.
Polan continued to rewrite the record books against Stony Brook. With 47 assists, the team captain moved into third all-time in Yale history with 3,181 career assists. Johnson added a 12-kill, 16 dig double-double, while middle blocker Maya Midzik ’16 contributed 10 kills, three digs and four block assists. Midzik has performed well for the team since being placed in the starting lineup after an injury to middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16. Libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 paced the team with 18 digs.
With this win, the Bulldogs recorded their 20th victory of the season. The triumph also secured Appleman’s fourth 20-win campaign since she took over as head coach of Yale volleyball in 2003.
“I didn’t even know it was that game,” Appleman said. “I don’t look at the milestones in that way. I look at how much better we can get. It’s great for recruiting, I’m not going to lie.”
Appleman said she is already looking past the record to the team’s next challenge: the NCAA tournament. The Elis will now travel to Penn State for the first round, where they are set to play against Utah.
If the team advances, as they did in 2004 and 2008, they will almost certainly be playing No. 2 Penn State.
“It’s a homecoming for me,” Appleman said. “We’ve been [at Penn State] before, we know what the gym is like, we know what the crowd is like. We’re going to be more like a home team there than anywhere else.”
Yale will take on Utah in the first round of the NCAA tournament this Friday at 5 p.m.