Courtesy of Steve Musco
In its second match of the season against Brown, the Yale volleyball team clobbered the Bears in straight sets to secure its fifth consecutive victory in Ivy play. The Bulldogs remain tied with Princeton — who swept Penn this weekend — for first place in the conference.
With just one match for the weekend, the Bulldogs (13–4, 7–1 Ivy) focused solely on preparing for their contest against Brown (8–10, 1–7 Ivy) over October recess. Yale’s discipline and preparation paid off on Saturday, as the Elis dominated the Bears in nearly every aspect of the game. The Bulldogs finished the match with a season-best .500 team hitting efficiency, while Brown recorded a dismal .060. Yale never trailed Brown for the entirety of the match — which took just 70 minutes to complete.
“We did a good job of just coming into the gym [this past week] and concentrating on the things that would make us better,” Yale associate head coach Kevin Laseau said. “We focused on what our goals were for the Brown match, and had some really good scrimmages [leading up to the game] that had great competition for everybody.”
Although the Bulldogs entered Saturday’s match as the clear favorite — ranking above Brown in every statistical category going into the weekend — the Elis looked to approach the Bears like any other Ivy League opponent. Wary of Brown outside hitter Sabrina Stillwell, who currently ranks first in the conference for kills per set, the Bulldogs’ defense was locked in throughout the match. Throughout the night, the Elis held Stillwell to just eight kills on 30 attempts and put up 36 digs against the Bears.
From the outset of the game, Yale stifled all of Brown’s attempts to gain momentum. Yale stretched out a 12–3 lead in the first set and maintained at least a five-point advantage over the Bears for the rest of the frame. The Elis secured 12 kills on just 28 attempts in the first set, with five coming from middle blocker Samantha Bray ’22. Bray, who has already accrued 109 kills this season, continued to cement her standout rookie campaign by hitting with an astounding .625 efficiency on Saturday. The Bulldogs ultimately won the set 25–16.
“Our game against Brown was a great win for us because we played super consistently and aggressively the entire time,” Ellis DeJardin ’22 said. “There wasn’t ever really a moment where we let up. Because of that, we were able to see the results we wanted.”
The Elis’ second-set victory was even more commanding than their first. Tough serving and consistent play from the Bulldogs’ backline made it difficult for the Bears to score, and Yale comfortably pulled away from Brown to another 12–3 advantage early on in the set. The Bulldogs had five aces during the frame, including three from outside hitter Gray Malias ’19. Yale outserved Brown this weekend with eight aces compared to the Bears’ four.
The Bulldogs also hit with a remarkable .706 efficiency in the second frame, largely thanks to another strong outing from setter Franny Arnautou ’20. Arnautou notched 11 assists in the second set, and the Bulldogs trounced Brown by a score of 25–6 to secure a 2–0 set advantage. Brown posted a negative hitting percentage for both the first and second frames.
“It always comes back down to serving and passing, and I thought we were serving really aggressively, which then allowed us to block a lot of balls in [the second] set alone,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said. “Brown wasn’t as good as they needed to be, but I think it was just about us serving aggressively and then capitalizing on opportunities that were given.”
Yale finished the match with a solid final frame, which the team won 25–17. By maximizing their hitting opportunities and minimizing errors, the Bulldogs hit at a .552 efficiency and recorded only four unforced errors in the set. Reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week DeJardin and Bray both led the team with 10 kills on 16 attempts each. During the match, the Elis put down nearly double the number of kills that the Bears did, converting on 43 attempts compared to Brown’s 22.
Consistent with the Elis’ formidable service in the previous two sets, the team concluded the game with yet another ace, this time by libero Yurika Boyd ’21. At the second-to-last point, the libero took a direct swing to the face, but successfully kept the ball alive. The Bulldogs went on to take the rally with a solo block by DeJardin. Boyd gracefully recovered in time for match point and completed the sweep for Yale with a winning serve.
“We’re a tough bunch, and Yurika in particular doesn’t shy away from anything at all,” Laseau said. “When you’re playing with a lot of confidence, you can get hit in the head and it goes back over for you.”
The Bulldogs will vie for the top spot in Ivy standings this Friday when they play Princeton at home. On Saturday they will match up against seventh-ranked Penn.
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