At the Penn State Classic, the volleyball team has faced a trio of difficult opponents — one of them nationally ranked — without the benefit of a home crowd. But the Elis (2-3) still managed to walk away with their first victories of the season.
Friday, the Elis came back from a 1-0 deficit to win 3-1 (26-30, 30-22, 30-26, 30-23) against West Virginia. But Saturday, No. 5 Penn State proved too daunting for the Bulldogs and Yale dropped the match 0-3 (30-16, 30-14, 30-11). Later in the afternoon, however, Yale recovered in time to beat Maryland-Baltimore County 3-1 (30-22, 30-25, 23-30, 30-21).
The Bulldogs credited their success this weekend to a simple execution of fundamentals.
“This weekend we tried really hard to improve at all the things we could control, like serving, ball handling and passing,” middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06 said. “Although we had our ups and downs, overall I think that these were the parts of the game that helped us win during some of our closer matches this weekend.”
Yale captain Jana Freeman ’05 and setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 earned spots on the All-Tournament Team for their efforts over the weekend. Freeman racked up 44 kills and 29 digs over the two days, while Becker notched 126 assists over the weekend’s 11-game stretch.
“Jana Freeman and Jackie Becker had especially great weekends and deserved the recognition they got,” middle blocker Kelly Cooper ’06 said. “However, I think whoever made the All-Tournament selections over looked [outside hitter] Anja Perlebach [’07]. I really think her defense is one of the main weapons of our team right now.”
Perlebach mustered 31 digs against West Virginia to go along with a career-best 35 dig performance against the UMBC.
Friday, the Bulldogs dropped their first game against the Mountaineers 30-26, but came back to take the next three in dominating fashion, 30-22, 30-26 and 30-23.
Freeman, who had her second double-double of the season with 18 kills and 12 digs, led the Elis. Outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 also posted a double-double of 15 digs and 14 kills. Two Elis set team highs for the season — Perlebach contributed a career-high 35 digs, and Becker ’06 added a season-high 46 assists.
“I was actually really shocked when the coach told me I had 35 digs,” Perlebach said. “I felt like I had played good defense, but I had no idea. It was a great surprise to find out at the end.”
On Saturday’s first match against Penn State, however, the Bulldogs were shut out. It was the second time the Bulldogs have lost to a nationally ranked opponent this season. In the first game, the Bulldogs showed promise with a 4-3 lead, but could not keep up as the Nittany Lions went on a 16-3 run, eventually wining 30-16. The next two games were similarly one-sided, as Penn State won 30-14 and 30-11 respectively. Freeman paced the Bulldogs in the losing effort with 11 kills.
“Obviously, [Penn State is] a really solid team,” middle blocker Lauren Burke ’05 said. “I don’t think we came out as strong and consistent as we should have.”
Against UMBC, Yale won their first game 30-22 through sheer efficiency, committing only two attack errors. The Bulldogs played well enough to win the second 30-25 as well, but faltered in game 3, dropping it 23-30. Yale managed to stop the bleeding in the fourth game, and won it 30-21.
“We did well, but we didn’t maintain the high level of playing throughout the match [against UMBC],” Burke said. “It’s definitely a lesson because going into Ivy League games we really have to step it up and play consistently, or give into being tired.”
The second match on Saturday once again featured strong performances by Freeman and Farrell, who each notched their second double-doubles of the weekend. Freeman had 15 kills to go with 13 digs, and Farrell contributed 16 kills and 15 digs. But this time, it was Lopes that led the Bulldogs in kills with 17.
The Elis viewed their performance this weekend positively, but witnessed the problems that will need to be addressed for success in league play this season. Next weekend, the Bulldogs will appear before their home audience for the first time this season at the Courtyard by Marriott Yale Classic where the Elis are scheduled to face Sacred Heart, Wagner and Manhattan.
“I think we are all really excited to have our first home matches and show some teams that we have played in the past what we have going for us this season,” Lopes said. “This week is also our first full week of practice, so hopefully we will be able to work on some key improvements for this last preseason tournament and the Ivy League.”