The dominant finish to the Yale women’s volleyball season was missing just one crucial element this weekend — an Ivy League championship.
Despite impressive back-to-back home performances and record-setting conclusions to the careers of two seniors, the team was left disheartened, knowing just how close they had come to their season goal. Cornell clinched the Ivy League crown with a win in straight sets over Princeton on Saturday.
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The Bulldogs (16-7, 11-3 Ivy) capped a sound conference campaign by downing rival Harvard (11-14, 5-9) in three straight games on Saturday afternoon. The night before, the Elis showed similarly aggressive play in a 30-28, 30-12, 30-20 victory over Dartmouth.
The team’s two seniors, captain and libero Anja Perlebach ’07 and outside hitter Shannon Farrell ’07, were honored before the match against the Big Green on Friday night. Their performances were further highlighted by notable career accomplishments that were solidified this weekend. Against the Big Green, Perlebach tallied 10 digs to move into sole possession of first place on the list of all-time Yale career dig leaders — she finished her run with a total of 1380. The following day, Farrell notched 13 kills and 23 digs to become only the third player in program history with 1,000 career digs and 1,000 career kills.
“It’s a great honor, and I’m happy to have my name in the record books,” Perlebach said. “I’m also really proud of Shannon. She’s a great all-around player, and it’s nice to get a little exclamation point at the end of the season.”
Head coach Erin Appleman was also very proud of her senior leaders and said it has been their hard work that has allowed them to become the players they are today. Yale was 71-28 overall in Perlebach and Farrell’s four seasons and won an Ivy League title and a first-round NCAA Tournament game in 2004.
That overall record included a final win over Harvard (30-24, 30-25, 30-20). The Elis shut down middle blockers Katie Turley-Molony (11 kills, seven digs) and Suzie Trimble (seven kills, two digs) and were buoyed by potent play from outside hitter Alexis Crusey ’10, who had 22 kills and 18 digs.
Yale also contained Dartmouth’s top player, Jess Thomas, the night before, holding her to only four kills and four digs. Crusey (18 kills, 12 digs, .394 hitting percentage) and setter Ally Mendenhall ’08 (43 assists, 10 digs) led the way for the Bulldogs against the Big Green.
“It was nice for the team to win three in a row and play well in those last three,” Appleman said. “Everyone was able to play and contribute.”
The Bulldogs maintained their high level of play even while Appleman rotated in everyone on the roster. Despite the numerous combinations of athletes on the floor, the victories are a testament to the team’s depth. The group loses only its two seniors, and though Perlebach and Farrell were integral parts of the team’s success, this year’s youthfulness should bode well for next season.
“The biggest advantage next year’s team has is chemistry,” Farrell said. “Because they’re so young, they’ll be able to grow together, work together and play together even more, which will help them improve.”
Perlebach said she expects the juniors to serve as a strong backbone for what will still be a young team in the fall of 2007.
The Bulldogs have things to work on this off-season if they hope to improve on this year’s result.
“I hope the underclassmen understand how close we really came to being the Ivy League champions,” Appleman said. “We will lose the strong passing of Anja [Perlebach] and Shannon [Farrell], and we need to get more physical and better up the middle.”
The team’s 11-3 record in the Ivy League was a tie for the program best.