All of that preseason training has finally paid off. With 135 kills, 26 service aces and 169 digs, the women’s volleyball team now has something to show for its hard work over the past few weeks.

The team (3-0) won the Yale Invitational this weekend, beating out Rhode Island (6-3), Sacred Heart (0-7) and Maine (1-9) in the minimum three games. Leading the Bulldogs with a top performance, outside hitter Alexis Crusey ’10 was named tournament MVP, and teammates Courtney Hall ’09 and Laurel Johnson ’10 earned spots on the all-tournament team.

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“I think the tournament showed a lot of what we had worked on in preseason,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the effort of the players and the depth of our team.”

The Elis kicked off their season in front of a packed student section on Friday against Rhode Island, their toughest competition of the weekend. Nerves were running high in the first game with both teams fighting for the lead.

The highlight of the game came early. With Yale clinging on to a 16-14 lead, Rhode Island began celebrating a kill without seeing that Bulldogs’ libero Taylor Morgan ’11 had made a point-saving dig. The rally ended with a crushing kill by Crusey assisted by setter Ally Mendenhall ’09, and the stands went wild.

The team’s nonstop effort pushed through nine ties and six lead changes the first game, and the Bulldogs clinched it with a four-point rally, ending at 30-28. The next two games were won with much more ease and confidence, with a final score of 30-12 in both games. Outside hitter Julia Mailander ’10 led the team with her first career double-double, scoring career highs with 13 kills and 11 digs. Putting up 14 digs and a career-high four aces, Hall came back strong after her shoulder injury last season.

“We were very excited to get out on the floor after working so hard in preseason,” Crusey said. “We came together as a team and played really well.”

The following morning, the winning streak continued for the Bulldogs with a 30-9, 30-24, 30-14 victory over Sacred Heart. More impressive than the scores themselves was the depth demonstrated by the team, with numerous players getting involved in the morning’s win.

“One of our strengths as a team is that we can mix it up and play a lot of players,” middle blocker Kristen Wilk ’09 said.

Eleven Yale players got at least one kill in the match, led by Crusey with 10. The team also served 10 aces in the match, five of which were delivered by libero Kelly Ozurovich ’11 in one rally.

In the final match of the tournament, the women’s volleyball team kept the intensity level up and finished with a 30-16, 30-22, 30-21 victory. Key players once again included Crusey, who put up her first double-double of the season; Wilk, who had 11 kills; and Mailander, who had eight kills, seven digs and three of the team’s four aces.

Overall, the team hit an impressive .303 (135-38-320) for the entire tournament. The experience of offensive players like Crusey and Hall came together with the talent of defensive newcomers like Morgan and Ozurovich to form a squad that seems bound to put up a lot more wins this season.

“The freshmen are adding a lot of competitiveness on the court, and it’s great to have their passion in the back row,” Crusey said.

With the powerful weekend at Payne Whitney, the Bulldogs ended up winning not only the Yale Invitational, but also the attention of many fans and perhaps the momentum they need to head into next week’s matches against No. 2 Stanford and No. 3 Penn State.