California was not very kind to the volleyball team, but that only made the homecoming that much better.

Putting last weekend’s tough losses to Cal and Pacific behind them, the Elis (5-4) ended their pre-Ivy season by winning the Courtyard by Marriott Yale Classic tournament at the John J. Lee Amphitheater this weekend. The Bulldogs defeated both Rhode Island and Central Connecticut, 3-0, but lost to Albany, 3-2. Yale won the tournament overall by winning more games than Central Connecticut and Albany, even though those teams also went 2-1 in the tournament.

“The tournament overall was really good for us because the competition was very high and we definitely played really well together,” said outside hitter Kali Nelson ’08, who made the Yale Classic All-Tournament Team. “We lost to Albany on Saturday night, which was really disappointing, but at the same time it will help us fight more this week during practice. I feel like we had a lot more spark and fire on the court than before, so it was really good preparation for the upcoming Ivies.”

The Bulldogs won all three games against Rhode Island on Friday night. Nelson posted 13 kills, with a hitting percentage of 0.462. The match was well-attended by a crowd of about 375 who contributed excitement to the atmosphere by cheering and yelling, team members said.

“We never got a crowd that big at my high school, so it was just really amazing to have a crowd that big and energetic,” middle Laurel Johnson ’10 said. “It was awesome, and we definitely played off the energy of the crowd.”

On Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs went up against Central Connecticut and won the match, 3-0. Shannon Farrell ’07 helped lead the team with her 18 kills. Later that night, the team had a lead against Albany after winning the second and third games, but lost the fourth and deciding fifth matches. Ivy League Rookie of the Week Alexis Crusey ’10 finished with 26 kills.

Despite multiple injuries on the team, which caused players to move in and out of the lineup, the Bulldogs performed with better flow and rhythm, Yale head coach Erin Appleman said.

“There were a couple of people who couldn’t participate this weekend and people who came in and stepped it up and did what they had to do to get it up,” she said. “It just showed that the team is truly 16 players deep and not just eight. Everyone can come into a match and contribute and do a great job. We look forward to getting a couple players back for the next week or two, which will help with flow since players are still competing for spots.”

With their pre-conference season behind them, the Elis are using the week to gear up for and focus on the upcoming Ancient Eight matches, team members said.

“I think everyone’s really excited to start Ivy play,” said captain and libero Anja Perlebach ’07, who also made the Yale Classic All-Tournament Team and is now sixth on the all-time Yale list with 1,173 career digs. “It’s a different sense of rivalry as you play each team. It’s a much more familiar feeling, and that’s exciting. It’s always fun to play tournaments, but it’s not the same as walking into Harvard’s gym or Cornell’s gym. You’re used to going to those places and you know the team so well; it’s just so much more personal. Those are the games that matter more.”

The team will begin Ivy play with back-to-back matches against Brown this coming weekend.