While The Game may have ended in disappointment for the Yale faithful, the Bulldogs can still boast of victory over Harvard in another arena. In their third matchup of this season, the volleyball team managed to best the Crimson (19–5, 12–2 Ivy) in a 3–0 sweep, securing its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
“That game was one of the most exciting games we’ve played all season,” captain and Ivy League Player of the Year Mollie Rogers ’15 said. “Even though the crowd was mostly Crimson, the atmosphere was really exciting and really loud.”
All three sets were hard-fought, as Yale won by no more than four points in each of the games, with scores of 25–21, 25–22 and 25–21. Despite leading throughout the beginning of the first set, the Bulldogs found themselves tied at 18 before the five-time Ivy League champions found a way to reestablish control with kills from Rogers, setter Kelly Johnson ’16 and middle blocker Maya Midzik ’16.
The second set followed a similar pattern, beginning with an early Yale lead before Harvard battled back to a three-point lead late in the set. Once again, Johnson, Rogers and Midzik were instrumental in fending off the Crimson to clinch the second set.
In the final set, Rogers had 10 kills to lift the Bulldogs to victory after being tied late in the game.
The Bulldogs, who lost to Harvard in each of their first two meetings earlier this season, hit 0.234 to the Crimson’s 0.173. Rogers led the team with 19 kills and the Elis had three aces on the night. With this victory, Yale is the first team in Ivy League history to head to the NCAA tournament for four consecutive seasons.
“We did the unbelievable by winning five [conference titles] in a row. And we’re the only team to have done that, ever,” head coach Erin Appleman said.
The key to the match, according to Rogers, was the Bulldogs’ relaxed yet confident mindset.
The team’s only goal was to have fun, Rogers said. She added that the sold-out crowd also provided a huge boost to the team.
“Collectively we played to our potential, and it really showed how much we’ve grown as a team throughout the season,” Johnson said. “It was just so much fun.”
The Bulldogs rounded out the regular season with a non-conference match against Stony Brook (17–15, 7–5 AEC) on Tuesday. Yale won its sixth straight match in another sweep with scores of 25–17, 25–12 and 25–12. The Elis were dominant throughout all three sets and the matchup highlighted the performances of numerous Bulldogs.
Both Rogers and Johnson had double-digit kills and setter Kelsey Crawford ’18 had 33 assists. Outside hitter Karlee Fuller ’16 had nine kills as well, and six other Bulldogs recorded at least one kill on the night. The team as a whole also hit a season-best 0.400, while Stony Brook managed just 0.089.
“The match was difficult to play because we should have been on Thanksgiving break, and we didn’t have a lot of fans here, and we already knew we were going to the NCAA tournament,” Rogers said. “In reality, it didn’t really matter whether we won or lost, but we wanted to finish strong.”
With the regular season over, the Bulldogs will face off against the No. 11 national seed Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
Arizona finished its season with a 23–9 record, its most regular season victories since the 2000 season.