In their first road trip of the season, the Bulldogs (5–1, 0–0 Ivy) fell just short of completing another tournament sweep. The Elis entered the Art Carmichael Invitational as the tournament’s only undefeated team, but New Hampshire dealt the Bulldogs an unexpected loss.
Each of Yale’s opponents hit the court hungry to prove they could hang with the Bulldogs, who were the lone defending conference champions competing this weekend. After prevailing over a strong Army (3–7, 0–0 Patriot ) squad that snagged a set from the Elis, Yale ultimately failed to overcome New Hampshire (4–6, 0–0 Colonial), which defeated the Bulldogs in a four-set upset. The Elis managed to turn things around against a scrappy Rhode Island (4–5, 0–0 Athletic 10) unit later that evening, notching their fifth win of the year before heading back to New Haven.
“We’re growing and getting comfortable with each other as a team, so there were definite bright spots [this weekend],” Yale associate head coach Kevin Laseau said. “We’re still trying to figure out how to best utilize everybody, how to maximize everybody’s abilities and meld together.”
In their first match, the Bulldogs limited Army’s offense by attacking its backline. By keeping the Black Knights scrambling for much of the match, Yale kept its opponent from generating quality swings. And when Army got a quality attempt, the Bulldogs were there to block it. Yale’s blocking unit thwarted Army hitters 20 times over the span of the contest, holding the Black Knights to a lackluster .117 hitting percentage.
Although the Bulldogs comfortably won the first set, the Black Knights proved resilient. Army notched kills on nearly half of all attempts in the second frame. With the match tied 1–1, the Elis relied on their own offensive firepower to reestablish an advantage for the remainder of the match. The Bulldogs won both of the final sets handily, and outside hitter Tristin Kott ’20 led the team, converting on 11 of her 24 attempts.
“Tristin has obviously been awesome … she’s just Steady Eddie on the right side,” Laseau said. “But we want to develop the whole team, and we want everybody to be a good threat. And I think we’re working towards that.”
The following morning, the Elis hoped to extend their four-game winning streak in the game against New Hampshire. However, the task proved to be no easy feat, as the Wildcats hit the court swinging. The Bulldogs managed to outpower New Hampshire in the first frame, hitting an impressive .412 efficiency compared to the Wildcats’ strong .371. But the same could not be said for the following three sets. Throughout the remainder of the contest, the Elis could not keep up with the consistency of New Hampshire’s attackers, nor could they gain an offensive rhythm of their own.
Although outside hitter Kathryn Attar ’21 aided Yale’s struggle to stay alive by contributing 16 kills and 19 digs, the Wildcats’ defense refused to acquiesce to the Elis’ attacks. New Hampshire’s frontline registered an outstanding 21 blocks in the match, with six of them alone coming from rookie middle blocker Maddie Wiedenfeld. The Wildcats’ backline proved to be just as solid, collecting 73 digs as a unit and holding the Elis’ hitting efficiency under .110 in each of the last three frames.
“I think we just lost focus and just needed to play a bit more steady,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said. “I think after the first set New Hampshire came back and served a lot tougher, and we didn’t. We didn’t really respond to their surge of aggressiveness. And then we could never catch up after that.”
Eager to redeem themselves after the bitter defeat, the Bulldogs rallied in the afternoon against host Rhode Island. Sweeping the Rams in three sets, Yale used impenetrable blocking work at the net to cruise to victory. The Elis logged 19 blocks for the match, keeping Rhode Island to a dismal .056 hitting efficiency. The Rams, who have historically struggled to be an aggressive offensive team, hit .000 in the last frame.
Several individual Bulldogs also had standout performances during the last match of the weekend. Attar achieved her second double-double of the day with 12 kills and 10 digs, earning tournament MVP honors. Reigning Ivy rookie of the week Ellis DeJardin ’22 recorded an impressive 20 digs. Another new face on the court, Samantha Bray ’22 also contributed heavily to the Elis’ victory, notching eight kills and three critical blocks.
“The team had an overall good weekend at URI, and it is always a fun learning experience going on the road for the first time,” outside hitter Gray Malias ’19 said. “I think as a team we learned a lot about the value of starting off strong in the early points of a set, and we are continually focused on getting better each time we play together. We’re looking forward to a great week of practice and our last preseason tournament at UCF this weekend.”
The Bulldogs will return to the court next weekend at UCF for the VolleyKnights Invitational.
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