Over Thanksgiving break, the majority of Yale students returned home to enjoy a few moments of rest before the final push. That was almost the case for the women’s volleyball team.
Although the Elis (20-5, 13-1 Ivy) traveled to California, the home of half the players, the Bulldogs did anything but rest when they played San Diego (23-4) and Loyola Marymount (13-17) before their trip to the NCAA Tournament.
In the match against San Diego, the Bulldogs fought hard but were ultimately swept by the Toreros. San Diego, the No. 15 team in the nation, had only lost four games in the season, all of which came at the hands of ranked opponents.
“The game against San Diego was a good chance to play a ranked team,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “It was a good way to stay focused before the postseason.”
In the first points of the opening set, the match looked like it would be close. The teams traded points, and halfway into the first set, the Bulldogs were down, 11-10. But the Toreros went on a 9-3 run to build a 20-13 lead. The Elis took a time out to end San Diego’s momentum. But the Elis could not make up the deficit coming out of their huddle and dropped the first set 25-15.
The second set was more lopsided. The Toreros led the whole way and took the second game 25-10.
The third set once again opened with strong play from both teams. As in the first game, the teams exchanged points, with the Elis down 11-10. This time, the Toreros didn’t run away with the set, and both teams battled to a 17-17 tie. Eventually, the Toreros got the upper hand and defeated the Elis 25-20.
After a few days rest, the Bulldogs were back on the court against Loyola Marymount on Saturday. With the loss to San Diego still on their minds, the Bulldogs were eager to reverse their fortunes on the West Coast.
“After the loss to San Diego we wanted to prove that we were able to bounce back after a tough loss,” outside hitter Alexis Crusey ’10 said.
The Bulldogs played in their fifth five-set match this season, eventually defeating the Lions 25-21, 18-25, 28-30, 25-19 and 15-10. In the match, three Elis recorded double-doubles. Outside hitter Cat Dailey ’10 lead the way with 23 kills and 17 digs. Crusey added 17 kills and 21 digs. Captain and setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 posted 53 assists and 14 digs. Libero Kelly Ozurovich ’11 also contributed on defense, tallying 21 digs on defense. Crusey recorded her 1,000th kill and 900th dig in the match.
The Lions were led by Emily Day, who recorded 29 kills and 24 digs. Statistically, Loyola Marymount topped the Bulldogs in every major category on offense and defense. They recorded more digs (95-80), assists (68-58) and kills (73-63). But the Elis made crucial plays when they needed them.
“Although we didn’t play a flawless match, we did show we could fight,” Mendenhall said. “The remarkable thing about this team is that we have this will to win.”
In the first set, Dailey had seven kills. When the two teams were deadlocked at 18, the Bulldogs separated themselves from the Lions by going on a 7-3 run to take the opening set. But they dropped the next two sets in closely fought battles.
In the fourth set, the Bulldogs changed their fortunes. Tied at 14 apiece, the Elis went on a 9-3 run, forcing the Lions to take a time out. But the Bulldogs’ lead proved insurmountable for the Lions, and the Elis went on to take the set, 25-19.
In the decisive fifth set, the Lions looked as though they had brushed off their loss in the previous set. Loyola jumped out to a 5-1 lead. After a Yale time out, the Bulldogs came out of their huddle energized and climbed out of their deficit to a 7-7 tie. The Elis maintained their momentum and never looked back, finishing the Lions 15-10.
While the Bulldogs were in California, the first and second All-Ivy teams were announced. Crusey was named to her third consecutive All-Ivy First Team. She is accompanied by Mendenhall and Dailey, newcomers to the list. Ozurovich received an honorable mention. Dailey was also the unanimous selection as the Ivy League Player of the Year.
With their regular season completed, the Bulldogs now turn their sights to the NCAA Tournament. Their first match will be against Ohio (24-7) on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Penn State. If they advance, the Elis will more than likely face undefeated Penn State (32-0); the Nittany Lions are the defending national champions.