After traveling over 3,000 miles, the women’s volleyball team dropped its first two matches against consistently nationally ranked teams this weekend during its season-opening California trip.

The Bulldogs (0-2) fell to the No. 23 Long Beach State 3-0 (30-28, 30-17, 32-30) at the Pyramid in Long Beach on Saturday, and they lost Friday night to the University of California-Irvine 3-0 (30-20, 30-19, 30-25) in Yale’s 2004 season opener. The 49ers improved to 4-0 after the win, while the Anteaters moved up to 6-0 after Friday’s match.

Despite dropping the first two contests of the season, Yale head coach Erin Appleman said the trip to California helped her evaluate her team.

“This trip gave our staff an opportunity to see the areas we need to work on,” Appleman said. “It’s hard to ever be pleased with a loss, but I am very happy with the effort that the girls put forth this weekend. They worked very hard, and that is very encouraging.”

In Saturday’s match, the Elis challenged the 49ers in the opening game. Yale came within a few points of winning the first game, challenging Long Beach’s front row players time and again at the net behind the leadership of captain Jana Freeman ’05.

“Jana [Freeman] played with a lot of intensity this weekend,” outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said. “It was really fun to see her so excited, and I think that really helped our team play with the intensity that we did.”

Despite the Elis’ early surge, however, Yale dropped the first game to the 49ers. The first game loss knocked the wind out of the Bulldogs in the second game, as Yale fell behind at one point by a margin of 12 points. Yale eventually succumbed to the ferocious attacks of Long Beach freshman Alexis Crimes, who racked up 13 kills and a career-high eight blocks on the evening to lead the 49ers.

But Yale did not fold right away as the Bulldogs fought back in the third game to force it’s first game point of the weekend at 30-29. After falling behind 15-22, Yale rallied behind middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06, who recorded 12 kills on the evening, to come within one point of forcing Long Beach into a fourth game. Unfortunately for the Elis, however, outside hitter Mariko Crum, opposite Heather Hetzer and Crimes were able to halt the rally and combine for three consecutive kills to end the Bulldogs West Coast campaign.

Despite the loss, a number of Yale players demonstrated the difference that the hard work of preseason has made for the Bulldogs. In addition to Lopes’ barrage of kills, Freeman added her first double-double of the season to the Eli offensive with 10 kills and 12 digs.

“Jana [Freeman] went after it every point and was not afraid to tool the hands of a 6’3″ blocker,” setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 said.

Farrell put up 11 kills and eight digs as well, and Becker proved consistent once again with 31 assists, 11 digs and two service aces.

Defensively, outside hitter Anja Perlbach ’07 held the floor for Yale with a team high of 14 digs.

“Jacqueline [Becker] was very consistent with her sets,” Farrell said. “She did a very good job of distributing the sets and giving everyone a chance to make a difference in the match.”

In Friday’s match against UC-Irvine at Crawford Court, the Elis played a little hesitantly against the undefeated Anteaters. Yale mustered a mere .101 hitting percentage, while UC-Irvine dominated with a .359 percentage. In addition, the Anteaters out-blocked the Bulldogs 11-3 on Friday, with UC-Irvine middle blocker Sami Cash racking up a team best six block assists. Outside hitter Kelly Wing and setter Ashley Hain also contributed to Yale’s demise, with 19 kills and 42 assists respectively.

“Playing Irvine was difficult for us because they play with a very quick style,” Appleman said. “Long Beach, however, plays a much higher game, and we were able to compete and match up with them much better on that front.”

Farrell earned her first double-double of the year with 10 kills and a career-best 14 digs to lead the Bulldog effort. Freeman joined Farrell with 10 kills and five digs, and Becker notched 26 assists. Outside hitter Lauren Burke ’05 added another six kills.

Yale will get the chance to earn its first victory of the season this weekend when it travels to Nittany, Penn., to participate in the Penn State Classic Sept. 17-18.