Courtesy of Steve Musco

In its first home matches of conference play, the Yale volleyball team swept both Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend. The Bulldogs remain undefeated at John J. Lee Amphitheater this season: not only have the Elis prevailed in each of their matches in New Haven, but also they have not dropped a single set at home.

For both of the Bulldogs’ matches this weekend, their gymnasium was packed with fans, eager to see the defending Ivy League champions back on their home court. Against Dartmouth (7–10, 3–4 Ivy), the Elis (12–4, 6–1 Ivy) put consistent pressure on the Big Green’s struggling backline, which concedes the most average kills per set in the Ivy League. The result was clear: Yale beat Dartmouth in straight sets. In Saturday’s match against Harvard (8–8, 3–4), the Elis rebounded in astonishing fashion after falling behind 11 points in the third frame, completing a sweep against the Crimson.

“We battled really hard this weekend,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said.  “We came from behind in a couple of the sets, and ended up prevailing. We were able to finish matches, which was great, and I just thought that our team battled and played well as a unit. Our chemistry is definitely showing.”

The Elis’ match against Dartmouth was arguably their most consistent performance in Ivy League play so far this season. From the start of the contest, the Bulldogs’ offense comfortably evaded Dartmouth’s stellar blocking cohort. In the first set, Yale hit with an impressive .343 efficiency, with rookie weapons leading the team. Middle blocker Sam Bray ’22 and outside hitter Ellis DeJardin ’22 notched five and four kills, respectively, in the frame. The Bulldogs took the first set 25–19.

Yale’s offense continued to operate effectively in the second set: The team converted on 16 out of 39 attempts and registered just five errors. After the first point, the Elis never trailed in the set. By avoiding ball-handling errors throughout the frame, the Bulldogs were able to stay in system and maximize their attacking opportunities. Though Dartmouth’s offense hit with a match-high .235 efficiency in the second, it could not overcome Yale’s firepower as the Elis secured another 25–19 victory.

“We had really good ball-control [against Dartmouth], which made it easier for [setter Franny Arnautou ’20],” Yale associate coach Kevin Laseau said. “All we ask [Arnautou] to do is to give the hitters nice, hittable sets. And she did that very well … she gave them numerous opportunities to score. It was just smooth.”

The Bulldogs pulled away from the Big Green early in the third set, jumping out to a 12–3 lead to open the frame. The Elis’ tough and consistent serving proved to overwhelm Dartmouth’s passers, and the Big Green never recovered from the early deficit. Arnautou was a critical piece in the Bulldogs’ dominant outing, as the junior registered 39 assists in the contest, and attacked with an other-worldly .556 efficiency. Ten of Arnautou’s assists came in the third frame, and she ultimately carried Yale to another 25–19 triumph to win the match.

The following afternoon, the Bulldogs clinched another sweep, this time against Harvard. In all three sets, Yale had to overcome early deficits to defeat the Crimson as the Elis took each frame by only two points. With the hard-earned victory, Yale extended its winning streak to four games and continues to vie with Princeton for the top spot in conference rankings.

In the first frame, the Elis struggled to maintain offensive rhythm against Harvard’s blocking unit, which successfully returned six swings by the Bulldogs. For the contest, the Crimson out-blocked Yale 13–8. Yale also recorded nine attack errors in the set, hitting a .071 efficiency. However, after eight tied scorelines and resilient play, the Bulldogs ultimately took the set in overtime, 26–24.

The second frame also turned out to be no easy feat. The Crimson quickly established a hefty lead: The Bulldogs trailed by six halfway through the set. But with the help of consistent serving from outside hitter Gray Malias ’19 and Yurika Boyd ’21, Yale went on two five-point runs to claim the lead and collect the 25–23 win. The Elis recorded five aces for the match.

“We had great serving [in the comeback],” Laseau said. “And then to back it up, we just played crazy good defense. Some of the plays we came up with were just phenomenal and that put a lot of pressure on Harvard.”

Tough, consistent service also proved to be crucial to Yale’s comeback in the third set. Setter Renee Shultz ’22 went on a seven-point streak to bring the Bulldogs to victory, despite a 20–9 deficit. The Elis finished the weekend with another 25–23 frame victory after the astounding comeback.

Several hitters also contributed critical kills for Yale throughout the match. Middle blocker Chiara Spain ’21 put away the winning point for the Bulldogs in the second frame, while only recording one error for the entirety of the night. DeJardin collected three consecutive kills in the final five points of the third set to lead the team with 17 kills.

“After five weekends straight on the road, we are so happy to finally be home,” DeJardin said. “It was so nice to finally be able to play on our home turf, and we definitely fed off the home crowd energy during the Harvard game.”

The Elis continue their home slate with a match against Brown this weekend.

Ellen Margaret Andrews | ellenmargaret.andrews@yale.edu

Ruiyan Wang | ruiyan.wang@yale.edu.