On All Hallow’s Eve, the Yale volleyball team played fearlessly against the Tigers, snapping a losing streak to Princeton that started on Sept. 27, 1997. But the Bulldogs were much more jittery the following afternoon against the University of Pennsylvania.
The Bulldogs (12-7, 4-5 Ivy) had not beaten either team in at least four years, but they ended one of those streaks after their first match of the weekend at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. Before a crowd of costume-clad fans — of which one group was dressed as Eli volleyball players — Yale ended its losing streak to Princeton (13-6, 6-2) with a 3-1 (30-26, 28-30, 30-23, 30-21) victory. Saturday afternoon, Yale showed improvement from its last meeting against Pennsylvania (16-4, 9-0), but lost to the league’s top team 3-0 (30-27, 30-17, 30-26).
“It was great that we pulled off an entire match against Princeton, but we need to be able to do it [more frequently],” setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 said.
The Bulldogs found themselves on familiar ground after splitting the first two games against Princeton on Friday night. The last time the Bulldogs faced Princeton on Oct. 11, the Elis had also traded the first two games 1-1. Yale fell apart in the third game and went on to lose the match 3-1.
Tied at 1-1 on Friday, the Elis were not about to make the same mistake again. Yale came out to a 3-0 lead, maintained that margin for most of the game, and pulled away at the end.
“We really felt like we could beat Princeton from the beginning,” Becker said.
While Yale has had problems this season closing teams out, a combination of Princeton errors and a balanced Yale offense helped the Bulldogs to a different result this time around.
Four Bulldogs had more than 10 kills each — Jana Freeman ’05, Lauren Burke ’05, Taryn Gallup ’04 and Renee Lopes ’06 kept the Tiger defense guessing as to who was going to hit the next spike. The Eli offense finished game three with an impressive .378 hitting percentage.
Yale assistant coach David Foster said last week that all five Elis hitters would need to produce for Yale to win, and they satisfied his expectations.
“Everybody was involved,” Foster said.
Although the Bulldog offense attacked by committee, Freeman’s performance was especially felt. The outside hitter finished with a season high 25 kills and a team-high 24 digs.
Head coach Erin Appleman also said Becker, who finished with 60 assists, 14 digs and five kills, was instrumental to the offense’s effectiveness.
“Jackie set a very even-paced match,” head coach Erin Appleman said.
Meanwhile, Princeton suffered from .199 hitting percentage. Tiger outside hitter Lauren Grumet committed 11 errors and hit for a paltry .074 for the match.
On a night of black cats and blood moons, fortune also seemed to have smiled upon the Bulldogs. On one play, Becker set the ball too high for middle hitter Renee Lopes ’06, but Lopes was able to get her fingertips on the ball and tap it over the Tiger blockers to go up 20-15. A couple of plays later, Princeton outside hitter Kellie Cramm slammed an unreturnable spike that landed just long.
Yale’s two seniors, Gallup and Libero Jessica Kronstadt ’04, were emotional after beating Princeton in their last matchup.
“That is an amazing win,” Kronstadt said. “It is such a great way for us to celebrate a new era of Yale volleyball. For Taryn [Gallup] and I to finally beat Princeton, it is just an incredible feeling.”
The momentum that the Elis built up from Friday’s historic win quickly disappeared against Pennsylvania.
After a back-and-forth game one that ultimately went to Pennsylvania, the teams went in completely separate directions in game two. The Bulldogs hit .085 in the second game compared to a .436 from the Quakers.
The Bulldogs played even with the back-to-back Ivy champions for most of game three, but made several costly errors down the stretch. In one such play, the Quakers took a 16-15 lead on a soft hit that landed between Freeman and defensive specialist Terren O’Reilley ’05.
The closest that Yale ever got was a 24-tie in game three, after which the Quakers ended the match on a 6-2 run.
“I do not think we did all the little things we did [against Princeton] — coverage, passing and ball handling,” Appleman said.
After a strenuous weekend, the Bulldogs will have to regroup to prepare for their Wednesday match at home against the University of Connecticut.
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