Reconvening after Princeton fed the Bulldogs their first Ivy loss of the season, the Yale women’s volleyball team proved that the reigning Ivy League champions will not go down without a fight.
Playing on their home court, the Elis (10–6, 6–1 Ivy) defeated both Columbia (10–7, 3–4 Ivy) and Cornell (13–3, 6–1 Ivy) on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Bulldogs set the tone for the weekend after decisively defeating the Lions in straight sets, clinching the win with a box score of 25–20, 25–17, 25–19. Cornell arrived confidently in New Haven, boasting an undefeated conference record, but the Elis downed the Big Red 18–25, 25–18, 25–15, 25–22. Beating the only undefeated team left in the league, Yale returns to the rankings in strong contention for another Ivy League title.
“Over the weekend we did a really great job at battling,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “We’ve been working on having better chemistry and celebrating, and I think we did a really good job of that … Cornell’s an exceptionally good team, and we were able to fight.”
On Friday, the Bulldogs faced Columbia, who had only fallen to Princeton and Cornell coming into the match. The Blue and White handily defeated the Lions, with Kathryn Attar ’21 paving the way with 12 kills and nine digs. As a team, the Elis hit 0.348 for the match.
Against the Big Red, an unsteady first set put the Bulldogs down 0–1. Cornell posted the first three kills of the match before the Elis retaliated with outside hitter Tristin Kott ’20 securing the first point for Yale. The Big Red, however, never faltered, and the Empire State team led throughout the set before closing it out 25–18.
This early loss would not dictate the rest of the match as the Elis set their ultimate victory into motion by flipping the score of the first set, this time in favor of the Blue and White. The second set featured four lead changes, and the score was tied at 16–16 until the Bulldogs secured seven consecutive points to lead 23–16.
“The game was so exciting with high energy everywhere: on the court, in the crowd,” setter Renee Shultz ’22 said. “I think we started slow, but we brought our A-game at the end. We are excited to bring the same intensity in each match here on out.”
Maintaining control in the third and fourth sets, the Blue and White clinched the win against the Big Red. Attar led with 12 kills, and captain middle blocker Izzy Simqu ’20 posted an impressive 9 kills with a 0.412 hitting percentage. Libero Maile Somera ’23 recorded a team-high 19 digs while outside hitter Samantha Bray ’22 dominated at the net with six total blocks spanning the weekend.
The Bulldogs’ accuracy and defense proved to be the deciding factors in their victory against Cornell. Although the Elis posted 33 kills to the Big Red’s 37, their average 0.264 hitting percentage dwarfs Cornell’s average of 0.180. Additionally, Yale made seven fewer attack errors and six fewer service errors than their opponent. Defensively, the Bulldogs posted 61 digs to the Big Red’s 48.
Yale, Cornell and Princeton are now tied at the top of the leaderboard so far this season, each with only one Ivy loss. Yale’s turnaround from their loss against Princeton represents a key point of success in the 2019 season.
From the Princeton game to this match-up against Cornell, the Elis played as a “100 percent different team,” Appleman said.
“We just didn’t quite ever get in a good rhythm in Princeton and now we are going to be on the road for a couple of weeks, so we’ve got to figure out a way to be good [while traveling],” she said.
Travel play will soon become the norm for the Bulldogs who are slated to play in enemy territory for the next five games.
The Blue and White have competed against every Ancient Eight foe thus far, and they will play each team again before the end of their season. Although the second half of the season commences in the same fashion as the first — against Brown — the Elis will not face Princeton until the last game.
“We did a really great job this weekend closing out the first half of this season, and I think that all came down to what we did in practice this week,” Attar said. “We prepared to be the best that we could be and not really worry about how well the other teams were doing, and it turned out to work well.”
Yale squares off against Brown next Saturday at 2 p.m. in Providence.
Margaret Hedeman | firstname.lastname@example.org