In the preseason, the volleyball team worked hard to believe in each other. This past weekend, they proved that it’s time to start believing in them.
The Bulldogs (8-3, 2-0 Ivy) opened their Ivy League season with a pair of victories over Brown (8-6, 0-2) this past weekend in the home-and-home series.
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The first game was in Providence.
Although the Bulldogs have played the majority of their season on the road, they were still on edge about the fact that they had to open their Ivy League season away from home against a team that has already won more games this season than they did all last year.
“Playing at Brown is always tough,” outside hitter Alexis Crusey ’10 said. “We knew that we had to pick it up.”
Crusey led by example, and helped propel the Bulldogs to victory. She recorded her second straight double-double Friday night, registering 23 kills and 18 digs. Cat Dailey ’10 also finished the match with a double-double, adding 10 kills and 14 digs to the Bulldogs’ effort.
But the Bears wouldn’t go easily.
In the first set, Brown went point-for-point with Yale in the opening minutes. It was not until the Bulldogs built a six point lead at 20-14 that Brown called a time-out hoping to end the Elis’ momentum. Despite the break, the Bulldogs came out and finished the Bears.
The second set saw the story in reverse, with the Elis forced to take a time-out down 23-21. This time, the Bears emerged from the time-out determined to finish the set. They did, taking two of the final three points to win, 25-22.
Going into the intermission of their first Ivy match, several Yale players and head coach Erin Appleman acknowledged the Elis seemed timid.
“I think we were a little nervous,” Appleman said. “But we came out more relaxed after the intermission.”
In the last two sets of the match, the Bulldogs and Bears were again deadlocked at the beginning of both, but eventually Yale pulled ahead to win by seven points in the third set and 10 in the fourth.
After an opening win, the Bulldogs came home to host to the Bears on Saturday.
The most noticeable difference for the Bulldogs was not in what they did on the court, but the energy and unity that they found in themselves and the home crowd behind them. The Elis had not played at home since the Yale Invitational three weekends ago.
“We have a great college atmosphere,” Appleman said. “It’s a lot easier to play here at home.”
But it wasn’t just the crowd that put the Bulldogs over the top. It was also the play of freshmen Laurel Casey ’12 and Taylor Cramm ’12.
Both said they were excited to play in front of the home crowd, and both made key plays to sustain the Bulldogs’ momentum, or squelch any hopes of a comeback by the Bears.
Casey anchored the Bulldogs’ defense with a team high 16 digs against the Bears in their second match.
“I wanted to be talkative and bring energy out on the court,” Casey said. “Our team had great communication and the game went a lot smoother than Friday.”
Cramm contributed up front, making key plays in the match. She ended the first set with a kill and also made a key block in the second set to stop Brown’s momentum.
“We won today because we were just focused on our side of the net,” Cramm said. “We were just excited to play at home.”
On the second day of the home-and-home series, Brown seemed to get progressively better with each set.
In the first game, the Bulldogs jumped out to an 8-4 lead before Brown took its first time-out. The Elis then built a 17-10 lead following the break, prompting another Brown time-out. But to no avail, the Bulldogs easily won the first set on a last kill by Cramm.
In the second set, Yale found itself in familiar territory, jumping out to an early 10-3 lead. But the Bulldogs let off the gas, forcing Appleman to call a time-out while her team was up 22-17 in order to end Brown’s momentum. The Bears won the first point after the time-out, but the Elis finished the set with three straight points.
After the intermission, the Bears looked like a different team, and took an early lead against the Bulldogs. In what was the closest set of the weekend, neither team lead by more than three points until the end, and the rallies were longer due to superb defensive efforts by both teams.
But in the final moments, the Bulldogs turned to their veteran leadership, allowing Crusey to dominate at the net. The outsider hitter, along with Cramm, made back-to-back kills to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to four at 23-19, all but guaranteeing a Yale victory.
“Brown made a lot of adjustments between the two days and even in this match,” Crusey said. “But it feels great to get these first wins under our belt.”