The Yale volleyball team started and ended its Ivy League opener last Friday on a high note. Setter Jacqueline Becker ’06, a soprano with the Yale a cappella group the New Blue, started the night for the Bulldogs with her rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” An hour and a half later, the Bulldogs defeated Brown 3-0 (30-22, 30-27, 30-26) in an exciting finish that brought the fans to their feet.

Although all three games went back and forth, Yale (8-2, 1-0 Ivy) finished each game strong — something it will have to do at powerhouses Princeton (6-5, 0-1 Ivy) and University of Pennsylvania (8-4, 1-0 Ivy) this weekend.

“We’ve done a much better job finishing games this year than last year,” middle blocker Lauren Burke ’05 said.

Burke closed out the match with a series of well-placed serves.

Before a crowded students’ section in the John J. Lee Amphitheater, the Bulldogs maintained control in the first two games, but fell behind early in the third. After preparing all week for the Bears’ powerful offense, the Yale defense responded well to the Brown’s top hitters in the first two games.

“We did very thorough preparations to prepare for their offense,” Burke said.

In the third game, however, Brown middle blocker Lauren Gibbs and outside hitter Rikki Baldwin went on several unanswered runs. Demonstrating their leaping abilities, Gibbs and Baldwin were able to send spikes over the Yale defense and helped spark Brown (1-8, 0-1 Ivy) to a 24-16 advantage.

Gibbs led the Bears with 13 kills but her nine errors late in the match contributed to Brown’s unraveling. Sensing the change in momentum, the crowd helped ignite Yale’s 14-2 run to finish the match.

“We realized that No. 1 [Gibbs] and No. 7 [Baldwin][on the Brown team] were going to have good hits, and we did a good job of containing them,” said libero Jessica Kronstadt ’04, whose seven digs saved a few long rallies down the stretch.

To counter Brown’s offense, head coach Erin Appleman emphasized the roles of the middle and right-side hitters — captain Taryn Gallup ’04, Burke and Renee Lopes ’06 — during practice all week. The three responded to the challenge, combining for 29 kills and an above .300 hitting percentage.

“All three of those girls had amazing evenings from their blocking to their hitting,” Kronstadt said.

Outside hitter Jana Freeman ’05 had another solid all-around performance with 11 kills and 11 digs.

Becker’s teammates said her game-time decision to sing the national anthem added to their spirits.

“It really carried us onto the court because she has such a good voice,” said Burke. She said the team was surprised by the number of fans in attendance, listed at 150.

“I don’t think we’ve been so excited for a home match before,” Burke said.

Becker lifted her team with more than just her voice — the Eli setter also had a match-high 42 assists.

The Bulldogs will now face two tough teams on the road, playing Friday at Penn and Saturday at Princeton.

Entering the season as back-to-back Ivy League Champions, the Quakers extended their league winning streak to 13 games with a 3-1 (30-26, 30-24, 23-30, 30-26) win over Princeton last weekend.

“It’s going to be a tough weekend, but I think we’ll be well-prepared,” Burke said.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”19311″ ]