Two wins over Ivy League opponents in the same weekend is a notable accomplishment, but consecutive wins over the same team is an especially compelling feat. This is what the volleyball team was able to do against Brown on Friday and Saturday, with solid victories in both Providence and New Haven.
On Friday, the Bulldogs (7-4, 2-0 Ivy) finished off the Bears (3-10, 0-2) in Providence, R.I., 27-30, 32-30, 30-7 and 30-19. In the Elis’ Ivy season opener, the team split the first two games but found its stride in the final two, including winning the third game by an impressive 23-point margin.
At home on Saturday, the Bulldogs swept Brown, 30-16, 30-17 and 30-28, capturing both games of the home-and-home series. The team is now tied with Harvard atop the Ancient Eight after the first weekend of league play.
In Friday’s match, setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 served 20 points in the third game, setting a new Yale record. Newcomer outside hitter Alexis Crusey ’10 racked up 16 kills, 15 digs and three solo blocks, while fellow outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07 added 14 kills, 13 digs and eight blocks. Middle blocker Kristen Wilk’s ’09 eight blocks contributed to a dominant advantage at the net that saw the Bears notching only two blocks in the four-game contest.
On Saturday afternoon, Farrell paced the team with 16 kills and 12 digs and was assisted by captain Anja Perlebach ’07, who had 11 digs, and Crusey, who contributed 11 kills and 11 digs. Middle blocker Morgan Hume ’08 sent a powerful shot down the right side of the court to start the first game and set a tone the Elis would follow for the remainder of their victory. The team maintained the same level of energy from the previous night’s win over Brown.
“The win last night helped,” Hume said. “We got it under our belts, and we knew what we were going to do today.”
The team’s hitting percentage of .362, in comparison to Brown’s .064, was reflective of its dominant first game performance. Brown constantly appeared to be out of position and undisciplined, unable to keep up with excellent play at the net by a contingent of Bulldogs.
“Mature players understand mixing it up at the net,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said. “You have to mix it up if you want to be successful.”
Brown came out much stronger in the second game, keeping it close early, though the Bears still succumbed to several mental errors. A mixture of impressive digs and kills helped the Elis pick up their form and pull away for a 30-17 win.
Between the second and third games, Hume and teammates recognized the need to focus on their serving and passing. The team knew it needed to continue to play its game and put points on the board.
Brown kept even closer in the third game, with the Bulldogs staving off a late Bears run to win, 30-28. Mendenhall and Wilk blocked the final shot to finish off their first Ivy League opponent of the season. Mendenhall looked nearly flawless at the net, just as she did in the first two games, consistently setting up big shots for Farrell, Wilk, Crusey and others down the stretch.
“It’s huge to start off this way,” Perlebach said. “We know every game counts.”
The team seemed to benefit from the home-and-home set up, coupling the momentum of Friday’s victory with the advantage of a home crowd on Saturday.
“I enjoyed it because for the whole week we could just focus all of our efforts on [Brown],” Appleman said. “And now we’re done with them.”
Perlebach said she believes her team is getting better everyday, and the steady improvement will help the Bulldogs as they enter the heart of their Ivy League season. The Elis will host two Ancient Eight opponents next weekend, facing Columbia on Friday and Cornell on Saturday in the Lee Amphitheater.