If there was any doubt about the pecking order in Ivy League volleyball, it is gone now.
The Bulldogs (16–5, 12–0 Ivy) clinched their third straight Ivy League title and their fourth in the past five seasons this weekend with 3–1 and 3–0 wins over Penn and Princeton on the road. Yale’s three-peat is just the fifth since 1977 and the first since Cornell won three titles in a row from 2004 to 2006.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said in an interview with Yale Athletics. “They’ve worked hard all season and earned this championship. They are a great group of athletes to work with and they deserve this title.”
The Elis still have one week of Ivy play remaining with Dartmouth and Harvard traveling to New Haven this weekend. But with Yale currently leading Princeton (12–10, 9–3 Ivy) by three matches, the title is well in hand for the Bulldogs.
Outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 put on her best offensive performance of the season to lead Yale in the clincher on Saturday against the Tigers. The San Diego native logged 15 kills to the tune of a .316 hitting percentage, her highest in Ivy League play this season.
“Mollie was so dominant,” setter Kelly Johnson ’16 said. “She was such a humongous part of our wins. It was so nice as a setter knowing that every time I set her the ball was going to be put away.”
Rogers proved to be key in a first set that went down to the wire but resulted in a Yale victory. With the Elis leading 21–19 late in the set, an error from middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16 allowed the Tigers to pull within one point. But the Bulldogs rattled off four straight kills, including two from Rogers, to take a 25–20 win.
After a stress-free 25–16 win in the second set, Yale had to make a dramatic comeback in the third to complete the sweep. The Tigers took an early 10–3 lead with two service aces but the Bulldogs came roaring back with a 9–3 run. Rogers, Haley Wessels ’13 and Erica Reetz ’14 anchored the streak with two kills apiece to pull Yale within one.
From there, the two sides traded points all the way to a tie at 26, when the Bulldogs managed to pull away. Reetz put Yale ahead 27–26 with her sixth kill of the match and Princeton’s Kendall Peterkin committed an error to give Yale the win and the conference title.
“We went in with the mentality of knowing that we didn’t need to get the win but we all wanted it,” Wessels said. “We had the attitude that we were going to do it and we did it. We had some rough patches but it all came together.”
Although Saturday’s match against Princeton sealed the championship, Friday’s win against Penn (13–10, 8–4 Ivy) was just as crucial. Yale swept the Quakers when the two sides met on Oct. 13, but Penn refused to go down without a fight this time around.
In the opening game, the two sides were neck-and-neck and played to 13 separate ties. But with the score knotted at 23 apiece, Rogers logged a kill and Penn’s Emma White committed an attack error to give Yale the 25–23 win and a 1–0 lead in the match.
But Yale could not carry the momentum to the second set as the Quakers jumped to a quick 3–0 lead. They led the rest of the way behind four kills and two assists both from setter Alex Caldwell and took a 25–19 win.
That was the last time the Quakers led the Bulldogs all night. Penn did not hold a single lead in the final two sets as Yale posted identical 25–17 victories to extend their current win streak to 13 matches.
“The first two games I think we came out a little bit timid and we weren’t being as aggressive as we should have been,” Johnson said. “During the last two games I think we turned it on and went all out. Our mentality changed and that changed everyone’s play on the court.”
The Bulldogs will attempt to complete just the second 14–0 Ivy campaign in conference history and the first since Princeton accomplished the feat in 2007 this weekend, when Dartmouth and Harvard visit the John J. Lee Amphitheater.