A couple changes was all it took to jump-start the volleyball team’s play this weekend.
A few lineup switches, a return to their home court and an improved team chemistry combined to power the Elis (13-2, 4-1 Ivy) to two 3-0 wins, over Harvard (30-24, 30-18, 30-23) on Friday night and Dartmouth (30-19, 32-30, 30-18) on Saturday afternoon. After losing to Cornell the previous weekend, the Bulldogs needed wins to reassert their competitiveness in Ancient Eight play. Yale did exactly what it needed to in order to get those wins and improve to second place in the conference standings.
“We obviously got good results, with the two 3-0 wins,” captain Christy Paluf ’06 said. “The Cornell competition was better than these teams, but I just think we played better during the matches and we were able to get better and work on things this weekend.”
Perhaps the most obvious change in the Elis’ play this weekend was the lineup adjustment. Libero Anja Perlebach ’07, who leads the team in digs per game and is second in the conference in the same category, was sidelined for most of the weekend, but defensive specialist Maribeth Martens ’08 and setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 more than compensated for Perlebach’s absence in the back row.
“The teams weren’t hitting quite as well, but I definitely think that Ally and Maribeth both stepped up and played very solid, which is what we needed them to do,” outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 said.
Martens donned the libero’s jersey for the first time on Friday night and collected 22 digs in the two matches. Mendenhall, who previously had seen playing time only as a setter, filled in Martens’ defensive role, adding 13 digs of her own. Defense was more of a team effort than it had ever been — outside hitter Courtney Hall ’09 and setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 each reached the double-digit mark against both Harvard (0-6, 2-18) and Dartmouth (9-7, 0-5).
“We really played aggressive and worked hard,” Martens said. “We moved the ball around and it was really important for us to talk to each other more because we had different people in different positions. I think we were really successful.”
Yale’s return to its home court was also a factor in the Elis’ success. The Bulldogs are 10-0 at home, and they attribute part of this success to the raucous crowds of fans — which, among others, included a Speedo-clad men’s swimming team on Friday night — that flood John J. Lee Amphitheater for their games.
“It was great to play home again,” Farrell said. “Coming back from kind of a rough weekend last weekend, it was just so great to be back in the place we felt comfortable and where we knew there wouldn’t really be any outside factors affecting the way we played.”
The Elis experienced greater team chemistry than they had in recent games, according to Martens. Instead of expecting Perlebach to make a huge defensive effort or Farrell to dominate the team’s attack, the weekend statistics reflect a much more even distribution of efforts.
“I feel like we really came together more this weekend,” Martens said. “I think we were more fluid and we were more in a competitive zone this weekend. We played well together and we meshed well.”
Heading into the weekend, Cornell and Penn, at 3-0 in the conference, were the teams to beat. The Quakers fell to third in the standings after losing to Columbia, 3-2, and to Cornell, 3-0. The Elis’ two wins this weekend boost them up to second place in the league, behind Cornell, which is 5-0 in the conference. The Bulldogs play Penn and Princeton, the only two league teams they have left to face, on the road next weekend.
“I think we’re looking at [Penn and Princeton] the same way we’ve looked any other team we’ve played,” Farrell said. “We know we can win if we play well and we know we can lose if we don’t play well because any team can take it on any given night. They’re both good teams, so we’re just trying to prepare ourselves so we can play our best.”