Unlike its opponents this weekend at the Army Tournament, the volleyball team arrived in West Point, N.Y., without any match experience this season. Winning their three matches convincingly, the Bulldogs showed it was worth waiting for their season opener.
The Elis (3-0) lost only two games in their three matches, winning the tournament championship Saturday against a solid Army squad.
Rookie head coach Erin Appleman obtained her first victory with Yale over Sacred Heart University Friday. The Pioneers, who entered the tournament with a 1-6 record, were an easy warmup for the untested Bulldogs. In the 3-0 (30-10, 30-9, 30-20) win, Yale won each game by an average of 17 points, with a .371 hitting percentage, 42 kills and only nine errors in the match.
Jana Freeman ’05, who led Yale in kills this weekend, had nine against Sacred Heart. Last season’s assists leader Jacqueline Becker ’06 picked up where she left off, setting teammates with 31 assists in the first match.
“Jana [Freeman] stepped up on the outside,” said middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06, who had eight kills of her own against the Pioneers. “Jacqueline [Becker] did a great job setting.”
Saturday, the Bulldogs rolled past Marist in a 4-game match and maintained their focus against Army for the championship.
Despite dropping the second game to the host Black Knights, the Bulldogs still defeated Army 3-1 (30-24, 26-30, 30-19, 30-25) thanks in part to Appleman’s scouting and her stress on teamwork.
“Coach Appleman thought Army would be tough, but we stepped up to the challenge,” Lopes said.
After an ankle injury to starting outside hitter Anja Perlebach ’07, Appleman was forced to change her lineup.
Christy Palluf ’06 and Kelly McAlearney ’05 filled in and saw more playing time at the outside hitter position. Palluf stepped up with a match-high 15 digs against Army. Team captain Taryn Gallup ’04, who played solidly all weekend, moved to the right side, along with rookie Shannon Farell ’07.
The injured Perlebach had 10 digs and four kills in her first collegiate match before rolling her ankle in the first game against Marist. She hopes to return for the team’s tournament in Maine this weekend.
“[Army] was a good test for us,” Gallup said. “Even though we lost a game, we really rebounded.”
Lopes, Becker and Freeman continued to work well together against Army, with many of Becker’s 48 assists contributing to Freeman’s match-high 19 kills and Lopes’ six kills in the deciding fourth game.
Jessica Kronstadt ’04 and Terren O’Reilley ’06 each had a number of crucial digs to keep rallies alive and allow the rest of the team to concentrate on scoring points.
Gallup said she was impressed with the way her teammates responded under pressure.
“No matter who we put in, our team didn’t miss a beat,” she said. Ê
As strong as Yale looked throughout the tournament, Gallup said the team had several lapses where it allowed its opponents’ strongest servers to go on runs of several points.
“We need to do a better job of controlling the pace,” she said.
Team members also said Appleman will have them work on teamwork basics, such as passing and blocking, to decrease the squad’s occasional errors in its first weekend of competition.
The Bulldogs prepare for a tougher challenge at the Maine Classic Friday and Saturday, the second of their three pre-Ivy League season tournaments.