A pair of sisters going head-to-head, freshmen stepping up, and an intrastate rivalry at home set the stage for an intense back-and-forth game last night.

The Elis played the formerly undefeated UConn Huskies on Sept. 12 in a two-and-a-half hour match that ended in a Bulldog victory in the fifth game. Four young players rose to the occasion and played seamlessly with their upperclassmen leaders.

The Lee Ampitheater was filled with Elis, from a large banner with “Julia!” written across it, to inspire or distract Julia Mailander ’10, to many different athletes coming to support a fellow Yale team. The match was entirely a team victory.

“It was incredibly a great team effort,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said. “Everyone contributed.”

All four freshmen — Julia Mailander, Lydia Mailander ’10, Alexis Crusey ’10, and Laurel Johnson ’10 — got playing time between the five games.

“I don’t discriminate between grades, I only look at skills,” Appleman said. “I’m very pleased with the freshman class.”

The veteran players also appreciated the contributions from the younger classes.

“We have an amazing freshman class,” Nicole Perkins ’08 said. “It’s really nice to have girls you can rely on right off the bat.”

The Elis began the match playing disjointedly and their defense suffered from the lack of communication. By the third match, their offensive presence made up for the slow start. As things began to go right, a sense of cooperation and teamwork returned to the Bulldogs.

After last weekend’s loss to No. 17 Ohio, the pre-match goal was clear — to win.

“It says a lot about a team that can come back after a loss,” Shannon Farrell ’07 said.

Not only did the Bulldogs come back, they did so in dramatic fashion by winning the last two games of the match after being down, 1-2.

The UConn/Yale story added another chapter tonight when Farrell played against her younger sister Devon, a freshman on the Huskies squad. Devon Farrell posted 11 kills, 15 digs and a .200 hitting percentage. While Shannon Farrell overtook her sister in kills by racking up 21, she only had 10 digs and a .172 hitting percentage.

“It was fun,” Shannon Farrell said. “We played our hearts out which was all we wanted to do, no matter the outcome.”

The Farrells spent the night serving and hitting at each other, Devon Farrell said.

“It’s really cool to have an intense game with [Shannon],” she said.

The high energy level surrounding the cheers, chants and songs from the Yale fans filling the bleachers grew as the match progressed. When a game neared its finish, the crowd grew louder, giving the players the energy to play long sequences.

Although Perlebach said she recognized the disunity at the beginning of the match, her all-out effort and the passion of the other women spread to everyone on the court. The Elis’ intense play kept the match going to a Yale victory.

“It was a tremendous win for us,” Perkins said. “We have a young team. It was great for the team to pull out a big victory.”