The Yale volleyball team played both ends of the Ivy League standings this weekend, and the difference in the level of competition showed.
In their final pair of home matches, the Bulldogs (15-9, 7-6 Ivy) were blanked 3-0 (30-25, 30-27, 30-23) by Cornell on Friday but returned Saturday afternoon to shut out Columbia 3-0 (32-30, 30-15, 30-16).
Perhaps the most telling statistic from the weekend is the discrepancy in the visiting teams’ respective hitting percentages — Cornell (21-4, 11-3) notched a stellar .342 while Columbia (0-21, 0-13) finished with a woeful .085.
Whereas the Big Red received strong offensive play from three hitters, only one player on the Lions hit above .200.
Before the Cornell match, Bulldog players had talked about the need to contain Big Red outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop while stopping her supporting cast at the same time.
Bishop, who has earned the Ivy League Rookie of the Week six times this season, had a double-double finishing with 14 kills and 10 digs. But her teammate, middle blocker Ashley Stover, stole the show down the stretch. To the awe and chagrin of the John J. Lee Amphitheater crowd, Stover took hard swings at the ball and still hit for a scintillating .550.
Every time Yale tried to cut the Cornell lead in game three, Stover seemed to come up with a demoralizing kill, and the Bulldogs never took the lead after the first two points.
Besides Stover’s spikes, Cornell’s serving also helped seal the match. The Big Red came up with several service aces to pull away in the final game.
“From the last time we played [Cornell], their serve and serve-receive improved,” libero Jessica Kronstadt ’04 said. “Our serve-receive wasn’t bad, but — we missed serves at bad times. You can’t do that against a team whose strength is the first hit.”
The Bulldogs were much more competitive in games one and two, in which they were able to mount more sustained rallies. But the Big Red won too many quick points in game three.
“Cornell is a very solid team,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said Saturday. “I’m not sure we played our best volleyball last night.”
Saturday’s opponent, the last-place Lions, looked like they were from a different division. Not only did Columbia play sloppily, but it also had only six players, the minimum number a team must field in order to compete.
Without subs, the Lions’ play quickly deteriorated. Columbia gave the Bulldogs a scare in game one, jumping out to a 28-22 lead. But Yale setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 looked to outside hitter Jana Freeman ’05, and Yale ended the game on a 10-2 run. Freeman finished with a match-high 19 kills and 16 digs.
The Bulldogs breezed through games two and three — the Lions put up .000 hitting percentages in both games.
Although it was an easy win, the match carried greater significance for several Bulldogs.
With 39 assists against Columbia, Becker is now sixth all-time for Yale in single-season assists with 982.
The seniors received the greater honor on “Senior Day,” introduced at center court before the match.
“It was nice to end with a win — especially since it’s my last home game,” captain Taryn Gallup ’04 said.
It was also a big win for Yale in terms of standings. Since Harvard lost its final two matches, Yale can lock up fourth place in the Ivy League with a win at Brown (4-17, 3-10) this Wednesday night.
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