Indulging in sweets is probably not a good idea for most sports teams. This weekend, however, the women’s volleyball team was glad to see a bunch of cupcakes on the menu.
Facing three teams which had a combined record of 2-21, the Elis (5-1) won the Yale Invitational in New Haven without breaking a sweat. The Bulldogs easily dispatched Quinnipiac (30-12, 30-17, 30-25) Friday, and St. Francis College (30-6, 30-11, 30-8) and Holy Cross (30-15, 30-25, 30-19) Saturday. So far this season, the Bulldogs have won five of their six games in three sets, and have lost just three individual sets themselves.
Regardless of the lack of strong competition, Yale head coach Erin Appleman said the weekend was a valuable test of the team’s depth and ability to adjust to different styles of play.
“I like that I’m able to sub any of my players and the level stays consistent,” she said. “I was able to see what some of my young freshmen could do and get some playing time for my older people as well.”
For several of the freshmen, this weekend was the first time they saw significant playing time, and the Yale rookies proved themselves up to the challenge. Setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 picked up 35 assists in two games against Quinnipiac Friday night. Outside hitter Courtney Hall ’09 had nine kills and a robust .750 hitting percentage against St. Francis Saturday.
Appleman said that another benefit of playing less-competitive teams early in the season is the variety of playing styles the teams bring to the court. The three teams selected were not on the Eli’s 2004 schedule, and the Bulldogs will not face them again this season. However, being able to adapt to anything the opposition does will be a useful skill come Ivy League season, Appleman said.
“They throw us different looks and make us think about different situations we’re not used to thinking about,” she said.
After opening their season with three road games, the Bulldogs were ecstatic to finally be back on their home court, with a rowdy crowd of varsity swimmers and rowers to help them through the game.
“Everyone gets into every point,” outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said. “That makes us work hard for every point to get the crowd reaction.”
The crowd’s energy seemed to have a tremendous effect on Farrell, who finished the weekend with 34 kills and 28 digs. She was awarded the tournament’s most valuable player award for her efforts. Joining Farrell on the all-tournament team were setter Jacqueline Becker ’06, who tallied 39 assists against St. Francis and middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06, who had 13 kills during the tournament.
The one time the Elis looked as though they might falter was in their second game against Holy Cross Saturday night. Farrell said that Holy Cross was the strongest team they faced this weekend, and the Crusaders capitalized on several Eli mental lapses to take a 9-3 lead. The Crusaders held the Bulldogs at bay until Farrell nailed two consecutive kills to tie the game at 13. The Bulldogs never looked back and took the game, 30-24.
“We made a few errors and it’s hard to come back from that,” libero Anja Perlebach ’07 said. “Once each person picks up their own game, it kind of snowballs into a good thing instead of a bad one.”