If there was any question concerning which team is the cream of the Ivy League volleyball crop, it has been answered.
The Bulldogs went 2–0 over the weekend to guarantee at least a share of the Ivy League title, the team’s third in the last four seasons. The weekend’s highlights included a victory against Princeton, placed second in the league and a team Yale fell to earlier in the season.
“We weren’t ready to finish games then,” Appleman said. “A month later, I think the players are in a position where they’re clicking a little bit better. The teamwork is better; everybody in the lineup is doing good things, and we’re ready to finish those matches.”
The Princeton match Saturday clinched the conference title for the Elis, as it guaranteed the second-place teams Princeton and Columbia would not be able to pass Yale next weekend to take the title. If Yale loses both its matches next weekend, and either Princeton or Columbia, or both, win all of theirs, the teams could tie Yale for first place in the Ivy League. The victors would then compete against each other to determine who will continue into the NCAA tournament.
Down 5–2 in a crucial third set, something clicked for the Elis (17–5, 11–1 Ivy) and they went on a tear. Princeton (16–8, 9–3) could do little more than watch as Yale went on a 23–5 run to capture a pivotal third set victory in a match it went on to win 3–1.
Outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 capped off the 23–5 run with a booming kill down the middle of the court. The gym erupted with noise as the Tigers’ faces looked defeated.
Rogers said at this point she was not concerned about making a mistake.
“I just thought to myself, ‘If I somehow miss this shot it won’t matter because we’re playing so well right now that we’ll come back,’ so I decided to go for it,” Rogers said about the shot.
But earlier in the match, it was Yale who looked defeated.
During the first set, Princeton took their first lead of the match when they scored three straight points to go up 24–23. Yale took a timeout, but it did not help the Bulldogs get back on track.
Allie Frappier ’15 and Maddie Rudnick ’15 miscommunicated and let a ball fall between them as Princeton clinched a 25–23 win.
“We let a lot of balls drop that we don’t normally let drop and we were kind of hesitant on a few plays,” Appleman said. “[Afterward] we talked about being aggressive and playing our game.”
The Bulldogs managed to rebound in the second set and took an early 10–7 lead. The second set would also remain close throughout play. But this time, the Elis, scoring five straight points after a 20–20 tie, took a 25–20 victory and successfully closed the door on Princeton.
After that momentous third set, Yale refused to let Princeton back into the match. In a tight fourth set, the Tigers gave the Elis a scare, coming within 22–21 before Yale pulled away again. With the score 24–22, the gym filled with nervous energy as the Bulldogs stood on the edge of another Ivy championship. Princeton helped the Elis out by serving into the net and giving Yale the win, as Yale players and fans went into a frenzy.
“The whole match was just really exciting,” Rogers said. “Still, we stayed focused the whole time. Each time we won a point and a game we were really excited but we held ourselves in check until the end of the match.”
The night saw great performances for the Bulldogs all over the floor. Frappier led the way with a match-high of 19 kills while fellow freshman Rogers contributed 14 kills and 22 digs. Kendall Polan ’14 recorded 57 assists, the second highest total for a four-set match in the Ivy League this season. Continuing her recent resurgence after a limited role earlier this season, Haley Wessels ’13 added 13 kills for a .522 hitting percentage.
“Haley has been phenomenal for the last couple of weekends,” Appleman said. “She and Kendall have found a great connection, and she’s really filled the role of being a go-to player.”
The win over Princeton on Saturday night followed a 3–0 sweep of Penn (8–14, 4–8) Friday.
The Bulldogs played one of their most well-balanced matches of the season Friday. Frappier, Rogers and Wessels all recorded over ten kills while Polan notched 33 assists and 21 digs.
The team came out slow in that match and fell behind 12–7 in the first set. But the Elis picked up the pace and finished the set on a 12–2 run for a 25–20 victory.
From there Yale did not look back. The Bulldogs took a closely contested second set 25–22 and cruised to a blowout 25–8 victory in the third.
Following a 2–0 weekend at home, the Elis only need to go 1–1 during a road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth next weekend to capture sole possession of the Ivy League title.