The Yale volleyball team continued its unprecedented run of dominance this weekend, capturing its fifth straight Ivy League championship after defeating both Princeton and Penn.
On Friday, the Elis (16–7, 12–2 Ivy) beat the Tigers (14–10, 9–5) in four sets with scores of 25–21, 25–22, 24–26 and 25–21. The next night, they dismantled the Quakers (8–17, 5–9) in straight sets 25–17, 25–20 and 25–15 to clinch the championship. Yale shares the title with Harvard this year, and the two squads will face off this Friday in Cambridge to determine who will represent the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament on Dec. 18 and 20.
Outside hitter and captain Mollie Rogers ’15, who lost only five matches out of 56 in Ivy League play over the course of her Yale career, remarked on the importance of a fifth consecutive championship.
“This means so much for our program. Winning it as a senior is also great because you get to go out with a win,” Rogers said. “We did work pretty hard to get here and it definitely feels good to close it out right.”
In the Princeton match, Yale hit 0.240 to the Tigers’ 0.177. Rogers recorded a career-high 28 kills while setter Kelsey Crawford ’18 posted a career-best 54 assists. Setter Kelly Johnson ’16 and libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 led the Bulldogs’ defense, contributing 24 and 21 digs, respectively. Rudnick, who currently has the second-most digs in Yale history, moved up to 12th-most digs in Ivy League history with 1,496 career digs after the match.
“I felt we really upped our level and worked for that win together,” Rogers said. “That was truly a team effort.”
The next day, Johnson again led the team with 15 kills against Penn, while Rudnick contributed 23 digs. Middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16 put up four blocks, reducing Penn’s hitting percentage to just 0.101 compared to Yale’s 0.267. With the championship, the class of 2015 becomes the second consecutive Yale class to win an Ivy championship in every year it spent on campus.
Johnson noted that the team managed to overcome a significant amount of adversity in terms of injuries and road travel in its quest for another title.
“It’s so incredible for our team and our program,” Johnson said. “The fact that we were able to pull through and come out and win an Ivy League championship just speaks so much to the character of our team.”
The tie between Harvard and Yale will be broken in a one-match playoff. In 2004, the last time the Crimson won the Ivy League championship, they shared the crown with Yale, Penn and Cornell. That time, Yale emerged victorious from the four-way playoff.
All of the players interviewed noted that the team looks forward to another chance to defeat the Crimson and that the Bulldogs will view the game as just another regular-season match.
“We’re going to go in for film, we’re going to scout, we’re going to practice,” Crawford said. “We’re just going to keep our normal routine and keep it as game-like as possible.”
Under head coach Erin Appleman, the Bulldogs have made five NCAA tournament appearances. Most recently, in 2013, they lost in the first round to Utah.
The playoff will take place in Cambridge on Friday at 7 p.m.