The volleyball team expected two tough matches going into last weekend, and Ivy League powers University of Pennsylvania and Princeton did not disappoint.

Playing the league’s two top teams on the road last Friday and Saturday, the Bulldogs (8-4, 1-2 Ivy) fell to Penn 3-0 (16-30, 26-30, 25-30) and to Princeton 3-1 (23-30, 33-31, 21-30, 23-30).

Yale head coach Erin Appleman said last Thursday that she was concerned with the depth and offensive weapons of both opposing teams.

But the Quakers (10-4, 3-0) and Tigers (9-5, 2-1) seemed to overwhelm Yale with several strong outside hitters each.

Penn overpowered Yale on both offense and defense. With five players posting more than 10 kills, Penn finished with 61 kills, 26 more than Yale. Outside hitter Jana Freeman ’05 led Yale with 13 kills, but she also had seven errors. While the Bulldogs had a .150 team hitting percentage, the Quakers finished with an impressive .317. Quaker setter Megan Scholat paced Pennsylvania with a match-high 42 assists, and match highs in digs (16) and hitting percentage (.571).

The Quaker defense also demonstrated its strength at the net, outblocking Yale 12 to 7.

“They did everything we expected them to,” said outside hitter Anja Perlebach ’07. “Their hitters just seemed to put the ball where we weren’t.”

Yale regrouped on Saturday in Dillon Gym, in Princeton, N.J. The Elis received a much-needed boost on defense from Perlebach who has seen limited action in Yale’s first two Ivy League matches due to an ankle injury suffered in the second match of the season. But this Saturday, the outside hitter played all four games against Princeton.

Perlebach’s 21 digs sparked a strong team defensive performance. Libero Jessica Kronstadt had a match-high 22 digs, while Freeman and setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 combined for 27 more of Yale’s 84 digs. The Bulldogs also had 19 blocks, eight of which came from middle blocker Lauren Burke ’05.

“Our defense was outstanding [against Princeton] — probably the best it’s been so far,” Perlebach said.

But despite a bristling defense, Princeton’s outside hitters Lauren Grumet and Kellie Cramm were still too much to handle.

“Most of the teams we’ve played so far have had one or two good hitters,” Appleman said. “Princeton has two outside hitters who are phenomenal — [they are] two of the best outside hitters in the conference.”

Perlebach said Grumet was Yale’s primary concern.

“We did a good job of containing her, but the other hitters just seemed to step up,” she said. “We hadn’t anticipated as much firepower from the other [hitters].”

Although Grumet tallied 15 kills and 18 digs, she was held to a .125 hitting percentage. Cramm, who was named 2002 All-Ivy first team as a junior, had 16 kills.

But Yale failed to capitalize on its defensive resurgence. Freeman and Renee Lopes ’06 led Yale with 14 kills each, but Yale committed 14 more errors than Princeton.

Now that the Bulldogs have seen the league’s best, they’re ready to make the necessary improvements to meet the Tigers and Quakers back home on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

“It was disappointing to lose two games on the road — which shouldn’t happen — but … we’re just as motivated to win the Ivy League title,” Terren O’Reilly ’06 said. O’Reilly added that last weekend’s competition should help the team prepare for its next road matches at Columbia and Cornell.

This Wednesday, the Bulldogs will have an opportunity to put the weekend’s losses behind them when they face off against Central Connecticut in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

“We’re excited about having a chance to play right away and not waiting another week,” Perlebach said.

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