The University of Pennsylvania was a sad place for Eli faithful on Saturday, when the football team lost big at Franklin Field. But Yale fans could have witnessed a Bulldog blowout if only they had come to Philadelphia a day earlier for the women’s volleyball match.
Though Penn (6-12, 3-4 Ivy) and Princeton (12-6, 3-4) do not boast records as strong as Yale’s (15-2, 6-1), it was exceptional play and better team communication — not the opposition’s weakness — that gave the Elis their commanding presence this weekend. The Bulldogs polished off the Quakers (30-18, 30-19, 30-16) and Tigers (30-23, 30-20, 30-21) with ease, winning both games 3-0. Yale is now halfway through the league season and sits in second place, behind Cornell.
The Elis are used to offensive success. They average 16.08 kills per game, the most in the league. But this past weekend they surpassed even those high standards. Outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 and middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06 reached double-digit kills in both matches, joined by middle blocker Kristen Wilk ’09 against Penn and outside hitter Nicole Perkins ’08 against Princeton.
Farrell continues to lead the Bulldog attack, marking up 15 kills per match, but she said the effort this weekend was collaborative.
“We played much more as a team than we had in the last few weeks,” Farrell said. “This weekend was a really great example of how well we can play.”
Lopes and Wilk achieved exceptional hitting percentages against Penn, .611 and .643, respectively. But Yale’s overall hitting performance was what sealed Penn’s and Princeton’s fates. The Bulldogs, who have averaged a .238 hitting percentage this season, reached .326 Friday to Penn’s .108 and .375 Saturday to Princeton’s .112.
Setter Jacqueline Becker ’06 said a strong passing game facilitated the offensive success.
“Once we were able to get good passes, the hitters were able to be one on one with blockers in front of the net and could hit it more easily,” she said. “It was a team effort.”
Becker said the team’s confidence allowed it to succeed in the face of several long rallies, which set the tone for both victories.
But Yale did not rely on its superior offense alone. Perkins said stronger team communication kept errors at a minimum.
“We had fewer balls going on the floor with no one going for them,” she said.
This weekend also saw the return of libero Anja Perlebach ’07, who was out the previous week with a sprained ankle. The junior defensive mainstay was back in full force, notching a squad-leading 20 digs against the Quakers and another 13 against the Tigers. Though Yale swept Harvard and Dartmouth without her, players said they appreciated her return.
“It’s nice to have a familiar voice behind you,” Perkins said.
Farrell said there were no signs that Perlebach’s ankle injury was still a problem.
Though players said they did not think blocking needed improvement, they highlighted it as an area to focus on before this weekend’s home rematch with Cornell, the only Ivy team to beat the Elis this season and Yale’s clear rival for league supremacy. The Big Red is undefeated in Ancient Eight play, but the Bulldogs are unbeaten in Payne Whitney this season.
“I think for this weekend blocking is key.” Perkins said. “Cornell’s a big team, and we’re going to have to be just as big.”