The Yale volleyball team finished off a three-match week with lackluster performances against Columbia and Cornell.

On their New York road trip last Friday and Saturday, the Bulldogs (10-5, 2-3 Ivy) defeated the Ivy League’s last-place Lions 3-0 (30-22, 30-27, 30-22) and fell to the first-place Big Red 3-2 (30- 18, 21-30, 28-30, 30-20, 15-8).

Yale’s win over Columbia (0-14, 0-6) on Friday played out like many of the Elis’ previous matches this season — with a slow start and a strong finish. On the first night of Columbia’s 250th anniversary celebration, the Lions roared out to an 18-14 lead with surprising energy.

But the Bulldogs finished the game on a 16-4 run behind a series of assists from setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 to outside hitters Renee Lopes ’06 and Jana Freeman ’05. During one stretch, Freeman, the best jumper on the court, had four straight kills.

Running out to a 17-10 lead in game 2, the Bulldogs appeared to have found their groove. But as has been the case in so many of their matches this season, the Elis hit a mid-match drought. After a Columbia timeout, the Lions scored 11 straight points.

Yale rebounded to win the game and the match, but team members said they were not satisfied with Yale’s inability to take over.

“The Columbia match was a nice win, but it wasn’t a pretty win,” libero Jessica Kronstadt ’04 said. “We were not in control of the match, and we should have controlled.”

The Elis’ problems maintaining control continued Saturday afternoon against Cornell (15-1, 6-0). Hampered by another slow start after a long drive to Ithaca, N.Y., the Bulldogs dropped the first game by 12 points. Although Yale came back to win the next two games, the combination of Cornell’s well-balanced offense and barrage of blocking proved too much to overcome.

“They spread their offense better than they showed on film,” Kronstadt said.

The Big Red finished with a .348 team hitting percentage, over 150 points higher than Yale, which recorded a .192. Freshman Elizabeth Bishop led the Cornell attack with 22 kills. With 21 digs to go along with her offensive play, Bishop may be on her way to her fifth Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors in the last six weeks.

Perhaps more impressive than its offense was the the Big Red’s blocking. Cornell outblocked the Bulldogs as a team 18.5 to three. Cornell middle blocker Jamie Luge had a team-high nine blocks and forced Yale’s hitters to vary their attacks.

Freeman and Lopes responded to the Cornell blocking by contributing season highs in kills with 22 and 21 respectively.

“It was good for us because it forced our team to find open spots,” Lopes said, “Mentally, it was a really good game for us.”

Becker skillfully distributed the ball for a season-high 60 assists and her vocal leadership helped keep Yale in the match.

While Yale got away with some sloppy play against Columbia, the Bulldogs’ 32 errors on Saturday, twice as many as the Big Red committed, proved too costly against the league’s top team.

“We were pretty equally matched [with Cornell],” Lopes said. “A lot of the mistakes we made were our own errors.”

Despite the large disparity between Cornell’s and Yale’s performances on paper, some Elis still found positive signs with their level of competitiveness on the court.

“We had a bad game [statistically] but still took them to five games,” middle blocker Lauren Burke ’05 said.

The Bulldogs face Harvard and Dartmouth next Friday and Saturday for the first time this season. The matches mark Yale’s third and fourth appearances at the John J. Lee Ampitheater in the last six weeks.

“Harvard and Dartmouth will be a good weekend for us to refocus,” Kronstadt said.

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