As the Yale volleyball season nears its end, head coach Erin Appleman knows she is losing two of the best players she has ever coached in outside hitters Alexis Crusey ’10 and Cat Dailey ’10 when the 2009 season concludes next Tuesday at Brown.
“It’s almost impossible to put into words what they’ve done,” head coach Erin Appleman said.
Last season, Crusey and Dailey led the Bulldogs to their first outright Ivy League title since 1978 and an NCAA Tournament win over Ohio in the first round before losing to eventual national champion Penn State. Although the Elis find themselves in second place this season, it is unlikely they will win the conference championship because they are three games behind first place Penn.
At Yale, Crusey has been one of the most accomplished players in the Ivy League for the past four years. During her freshman year for the Bulldogs, she led the Ivy League with 4.59 kills per set, was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and earned first team All-Ivy honors. The San Diego native was subsequently named first team All-Ivy the next two seasons, and is a favorite to make the first team for a fourth consecutive time after this season.
“Making first team All-Ivy didn’t stop Lexi from working hard,” Appleman said. “She has intensity and drive. She always strives.”
And she performed on the big stage. Former setter Ali Mendenhall ’09 remembered how Crusey looked to assert herself in the team’s NCAA Tournament win over Ohio.
“Lexi said, ‘Get me the ball,’ ” Mendenhall recalled. “I got her the ball, and she fired a cross-court shot that won the game.”
Crusey has been able to dominate the court by studying the game intensely and, according to Mendenhall, knows what she is going to do with the ball before the play needs to be made.
“Lexi has a high volleyball IQ,” Appleman said. “She does so many little things to help us win.”
According to Appleman, Crusey’s style complements that of Dailey, who tries to outjump and outrun everyone else on the court.
“Physically, Cat is a dominating player,” Appleman said.
Dailey, who is from Newport Beach, Calif., had a different route to Yale. She first attended the University of California, Berkeley for two years, helping the Bears to advance to the NCAA Tournament in one season, before transferring to Yale. At Berkeley, she had initially quit volleyball before speaking with coaches at other universities.
“I ended up talking to a few coaches, and I realized I missed volleyball,” Dailey said. “[And] I fell in love with Yale.”
After transferring last year, Dailey soon meshed with the Bulldogs and was a key component in the team’s run into the NCAA Tournament last season.
“She blended in so well,” Mendenhall said. “It was a very easy transition.”
And it showed. Dailey was the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year, an Ivy League champion and first team All-Ivy in her first year at Yale.
“She singlehandedly took over some games,” Mendenhall said. “She is a very dependable, reliable hitter.”
Dailey currently leads the Ivy League in kills, with 4.02 per set, and points, with 4.55 per set. She was recently selected to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team, which recognizes excellent athletes with cumulative grade point averages of at least 3.30.
Not only do the two dominant seniors complement each other on the court, but they also bring personality outside the lines, Appleman said.
“Lexi always wants to have a good time,” the coach said. “And Cat is one of the klutziest people I know.”
Overall, the combination of Crusey and Dailey led Yale to the Ivy League Championship last year and will leave a place in Yale volleyball history.
“Lexi and Cat are the two best players I’ve coached at Yale,” Appleman said.