Coming off its first two losses of the 2015 Ivy League season, the Yale volleyball team rebounded this weekend to collect a pair of comfortable home wins over Penn and Princeton.
The Bulldogs (10–6, 5–2 Ivy) dropped just one set all weekend, following a 3–1 win over the Quakers (9–10, 3–4) with a 3–0 sweep over the Tigers (8–8, 3–4). Yale had lost road games at Harvard and Dartmouth the week before to fall into a tie for third place, but the two victories this weekend moved Yale up into a tie for second place, just one match out of the top spot.
“This weekend we played with a lot of heart,” captain and outside hitter Karlee Fuller ’16 said. “We worked really hard last week to improve our game physically and mentally, and that absolutely showed in the matches this weekend. I think we played with a lot of grit and drive, which was fantastic.”
The Bulldogs broke out of their slump immediately against Penn on Friday night, opening the match with a pair of service aces from middle blocker Gray Malias ’19. Later in the first set, with Yale holding a slim 22–20 lead, veteran setter Kelly Johnson ’16 and middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16 came through with kills, and libero Kate Swanson ’19 added a service ace to close out the set.
In the second set, Yale took advantage of some Quaker miscues to open up a 2–0 lead. Penn overcame the early Bulldog advantage to take a 21–20 lead, but the Quakers made errors on five of the next seven points, including the final three of the set, for a 25–23 Yale win.
Penn controlled the third set start to finish, however, jumping out to a lead of 9–1 and, later, 22-13. The Bulldogs mounted a late run to close the margin to five but were unable to catch up as the Quakers easily took the frame.
Penn soon looked to be in position to take the match to five sets, leading 13–10 midway through the fourth set. The Bulldogs had other ideas, though, and Fuller served Yale to nine consecutive points. During that run, the Bulldogs were led by middle blocker Maya Midzik ’16, who recorded two kills and four block assists.
The Quakers went on a streak of their own to tie the score at 23, but two Ebner kills closed the set and the match out, giving Yale its first victory in two weeks. Midzik and Ebner excelled in the match, combining for 17 kills against just four errors.
“We really came together this weekend and played Yale volleyball, enjoying being out there on the court with each other, celebrating after every point and coming together as a team,” Midzik said.
Against Princeton, Ebner was again a major contributor. The senior recorded seven kills without committing an error, and she came through with clutch kills to close out the first and third sets for Yale.
In the Bulldogs’ three-set victory, they also received an unexpected boost from middle hitter Meaghan Truman ’18, who recorded her first three kills of the season at key moments in the first two frames.
“I think we saw amazing contributions from a lot of people,” Fuller said. “Truman was a threat at the net, and both of our middles made outstanding plays offensively and defensively.”
At all positions, the Bulldogs were more consistent and comfortable playing on their home court once again.
Yale’s home record now stands at 6–2 on the season — including 5–0 in the Ivy League — while the Elis are just 1–3 on the road.
“It was so nice to come back home and be able to play in our gym again,” outside hitter Kaitlyn Gibbons ’18 said.
These two matches, however, were Yale’s last home games for almost a month. The Bulldogs play a single match at Brown next weekend before consecutive weekend trips to Cornell and Columbia and then Princeton and Penn.
Yale faces Brown in Providence on Friday at 7 p.m.