After a season of near-misses, the women’s volleyball team pulled out its first two Ivy road victories of the year this weekend in thrilling fashion.

The Bulldogs defeated Penn 3-2 (25-30, 30-28, 24-30, 30-27, 15-6) in a down-to-the-wire match Saturday afternoon at the Palestra, and dropped Princeton 3-2 (30-25, 25-30, 24-30, 37-35, 15-4) in another nail-biter Friday evening in New Jersey. The Tigers (6-3, 15-6 Ivy) remained in third place in the Ancient Eight after the weekend while Yale (10-7, 5-4) moved into fourth and Penn (11-9, 4-5) fell to fifth place.

Head coach Erin Appleman said both wins were well-deserved, and she credited the leadership of the upperclassmen for the two victories.

“It was fabulous to finally win a road game, especially against Penn and Princeton,” Appleman said. “I was particularly proud of the seniors, who had never won an away game against either team before this weekend. They are doing things for the program that have never been done before, and they have been a big factor in the team’s success this year.”

In the weekend-closer against Penn, the Elis followed suit from their Friday match against Princeton to defeat the Quakers in a comeback victory. After dropping the first game, Yale surged back to eventually force a fifth game. Captain Jana Freeman ’05 led the Bulldog attack with 24 kills, and she contributed 22 digs to the Eli defensive effort as well. Setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 posted 54 assists and 28 digs, and libero Anja Perlebach ’07 continued her strong defensive performance from Friday’s match with 25 digs.

“Anja and Jana both had big weekends,” Becker said. “The wins were very much a team effort, but they each performed their particular jobs very well, and it helped translate all of our hard work this week into two much-needed wins.”

Friday’s match against Princeton saw a much different Yale team that of the previous weekend. After losing two disappointing matches on the road to Dartmouth and Harvard, the Bulldogs battled with the Tigers on Friday, who had already beaten the Elis earlier in the season.

Both Appleman and Eli players agreed that while offense was key in the win, the defensive effort is what really clinched the game for Yale.

“Princeton is a very tough defensive team and we were able to stay focused throughout every point,” outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said. “We fought really hard, and everyone played well at their own moments which contributed to our success.”

As the final stats attested, the win over Princeton was a team effort on the part of the Bulldogs. Both Becker and Perlebach set career-highs in the victory with 80 assists and 41 digs, respectively. Farrell also put up big numbers in Friday’s win, racking up 24 kills and 27 digs and committing only nine attack errors. Lauren Burke ’05 was a major force at the net as well, with 12 kills and six blocks.

Next on the agenda for Yale will be home games against Dartmouth Friday night and Ivy co-leader Harvard Saturday afternoon. After losing to both teams two weekends ago, the Elis should be ready for revenge on their home court.

“I am hoping that we will be extremely fired up to play Dartmouth on Friday,” Appleman said. “We have a lot to make up for against them, and coming off these two wins, where we are in fourth place by ourselves, we should be ready to win both games this weekend.”

While the damage of key losses earlier in the season could prevent an Ivy League championship, nothing in the conference is definite at this point. Harvard and Cornell are still at the top of the league, and Princeton sits right behind them. Yale is currently just three games back, and this weekend could shake up the rankings.

“Next weekend is going to be a huge weekend for our program,” Appleman said. “We are going to need some help from the other teams in terms of winning the Ivy title, but our destiny is very much in our own hands. If we take care of things on our end next weekend, we will be in a very good position.”