The women’s volleyball team concluded its pre-Ivy League season in spectacular fashion this weekend, sweeping its competition en route to collecting the Courtyard by Marriot Yale Classic championship.

The Elis (8-1) extended their win streak to seven games as they downed Delaware (30-25, 30-25, 30-23) on Friday night, and Iona (30-20, 30-21, 30-24) and Binghamton (30-19, 30-26, 30-23) on Saturday. Saturday night’s match against the Bearcats was Yale’s final test before opening its conference season next weekend against Brown, and the Bulldogs were pleased with what they saw.

“Our passing was a ton better, and our serves were aggressive,” captain Christy Paluf ’06 said. “We followed the game plan. We executed what the coaches had scouted. Throughout the weekend, we maintained a high level of play, and we got better every game.”

The Elis’ most competitive match came in Friday’s battle with Delaware (5-12). The Blue Hens took the first point of the match, but the Elis quickly gained the lead off of kills from outside hitter Kali Nelson ’08 and middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06. The Bulldogs never trailed again, but the Blue Hens refused to go down easily and tied the game 12 times before a Shannon Farrell ’07 kill broke a 22-22 stalemate to put the Elis ahead for good.

The second two games were just as hotly contested. The Bulldogs found themselves behind the Blue Hens eight times during the games, several times trailing by as many as four points. Yale’s tough defense kept the Elis in the game — setter Jacqueline Becker ’06, outside hitter Farrell and libero Anja Perlebach ’07 each recorded double digit digs. In the third game, the Elis held the Blue Hens to a dismal .098 hitting percentage.

“I think against Delaware it was really exciting,” middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06 said. “It was amazing to play, and even when I was out, it was amazing to watch. There was just a lot of energy on the team.”

In what seemed like a repeat of last weekend’s Yale Invitational awards ceremony, Becker and Lopes again received All-Tournament team honors for Yale, and Farrell took home her second MVP award in two weeks. But the Elis’ success was more of a team achievement than the result of an outstanding performance by the trio of upperclassman starters.

“It was exciting to see how much depth our team had,” Lopes said. “It was like our team was just one fluid being — you could put anyone in and stay strong.”

Out of the Elis’ 18-player roster, 14 saw court time against Iona (3-8) on Saturday morning. After a shaky start in the first game, the Yale offense was unstoppable against the Gaels, and the team recorded a tournament-high .425 hitting percentage during the second game. Farrell and outside hitter Nicole Perkins ’08 combined for 27 kills, and Perlebach led the team’s defensive efforts with 20 digs.

Perkins was a major factor in the Elis’ three wins this weekend. Her best match came against Binghamton (8-8) Saturday night, when she racked up 14 kills and recorded a lofty .464 hitting percentage. In the Bulldogs’ third game against the Bearcats, the Elis faced a five-point deficit until Perkins stepped up and nailed two consecutive kills to kick off Yale’s comeback.

“Nicole really came alive in her play on the outside,” Paluf said. “She played really smart. She’s gained so much confidence, and she knows when to mix up her shots.”

Now that Yale has wrapped up pre-conference play, the Bulldogs will crack down in practice this week to prepare themselves for Friday night’s Ivy opener against Brown. Yale head coach Erin Appleman said that the upcoming week of practice will benefit the Elis, who have some fundamental aspects of their play to address before tackling the Bears.

“I think practices are going to be a little more intense, a little more focused,” Appleman said.

The Bulldogs are thrilled to finally see their league opener just around the corner.

“We’re psyched,” Paluf said. “We can’t wait. We’re happy to have another week to work on things. We’ve got four good days of practice, and we’re just so excited to start Ivies.”

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