With two weeks left in the regular season, the volleyball team took first place in the Ivy League standings for the first time this season.
The Elis (14–7, 7–2 Ivy) returned home to face former conference leaders Princeton (12–8, 7–2) and Penn (11–10, 7–2) and despite having lost to both teams earlier in the season, the Bulldogs triumphed in two straight 3–0 set victories to reclaim its spot atop the Ancient Eight.
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“We played outstanding defense and the players played to win,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “We had some great opportunities this weekend and we need to continue to play hard every single match.”
Yale had previously lost to both Penn and Princeton in close 3–1 sets contests on Oct. 8 and 9. But the since-undefeated team had confidence especially from Bridget Hearst ’12, Yale’s first Ivy League Player of the Week recipient of the 2010 season, and Kendall Polan ’14, who received her third Rookie of the Week title. Both received the honors last week.
In the Friday match against Princeton, the volleyball team earned a hard-fought straight set victory (25–23, 26–24, 25–10), winning the third game easily after fighting off three set points in the second.
The Bulldogs and Tigers traded points throughout the first set with neither team able to hold an advantage until 20–20 when Princeton took three consecutive points that lead to a Yale timeout. Two points away from losing the set, strong play helped the team win five straight points and take the opening set despite a Princeton timeout to regroup.
In the second set, the Tigers got off to a quick start and were up 10–4 before Yale regained momentum. After a strong serve from captain Kelly Ozurovich ’11, the Elis tied the score at 15–15. The teams traded points until Princeton regained control to take a 22–18 advantage. Smart play from players such as Erica Reetz ’14 helped the Bulldogs get within a point. Princeton’s Lydia Rudnick led the team to three set points. Unable to convert on their opportunities, Yale fought and won the set 26–24.
“We did a great job executing our game plan to shut her [Lydia Rudnick] down,” Reetz said. “When she switched up her game, we stepped up our defense.”
Rudnick and Jennifer Palmquist both had 5 kills for the Tigers. Liz McStravick hit .400 for the match with five kills and five blocks.
The Elis took command of the third set early and would not allow the visitors to take the lead. The Princeton team took a quick 3–0 lead but failed to hold the lead once again. A combination of strong Yale play and Tiger confusion lead to an eventual 25–10 defeat.
Polan, Hearst and Reetz each accumulated nine kills. Polan also led the team with 20 assists. She and Reetz led the team with 15 digs apiece.
Yale faced a relatively more straightforward task against Penn, edging the Quakers 3–0 (25–18, 25–18, 25–22) and ending the Red and Blue’s seven-match winning streak.
The Elis came out and stayed on par with the Quakers until 8–8. The team then took command of the set and did not lose the lead for the remainder of the 25–18 set.
“That is the benefit of being on a small team that we are so comfortable with each other,” Ozurovich said.
Yale notched a .317 hitting percentage that was highlighted by Hearst’s seven kills in the first set alone.
“[Hearst] had an amazing match against Penn,” Appleman said.
Despite missing two serves in the second set, the Bulldogs never looked troubled by the Penn team that used 10 substitutions to find the right combination against a in-form Yale team. The Quakers tied twice early in the set, but lost control of the set after a Penn miss, eventually dropping the game 25–18.
The third set posed the biggest threat to Yale during the match. Yale maintained a lead throughout the course of the set. The Quakers tied on three separate occasions but were unable to challenge the Bulldogs their final tie at 10–10. The Elis pulled ahead and held the lead for 25–22 victory.
“We were prepared and knew what was coming,” Ozurovich said. “We knew the go to hitters for both teams.”
Polan finished the match with a near triple double (30 assists, 15 digs and nine kills). Hearst had a strong performance with 16 kills and .517 kill percentage.
The Elis will end their 2010 regular season home schedule against Dartmouth and Harvard next weekend.