Lukas Flippo

After a narrow victory in the fifth and final set in its match against Princeton, the Yale volleyball team secured a third consecutive Ivy League crown. This Friday, the co-champions will reconvene in New Jersey to determine the recipient of the NCAA tournament bid.

On Saturday, Yale (15–7, 10–2 Ivy) clinched the victory 16–25, 25–22, 18–25, 25–21, 17–15 after pushing the Tigers (16–7, 10–2) into five grueling sets. The win guides the Blue and White into a play-in game against Princeton since the two Ancient Eight foes concluded the season with identical conference records. The Elis enter the competition riding a three-game winning streak.

“Since August, our practices have consisted of extensive passing and serving reps, a good dose of focused and intentional scouting and lots of competitive games and drills,” setter Franny Arnautou ’20 said. “This recipe works well for us, and sticking to it aligns with our broader mentality of treating Friday like any other game. Obviously the implications and consequences of this matchup are undeniably different, but at the end of the day, the team who wins will have done so by executing their strategy better and making quick in-game adjustments.”

Saturday’s matchup showcased multiple outstanding performances, all of which contributed to the successful outcome. Captain and middle blocker Izzy Simqu ’20 and Arnautou assisted the Elis, involved in a combined 60 points. Outside hitter Ellis DeJardin ’22 led the match with 14 kills, and the team out-blocked Princeton 14–7. Though the Tigers got the statistical advantage in other aspects of play, the Blue and White’s performance was studded with extreme comebacks, giving the host team a 17–15 edge in the final set.

Both head coach Erin Appleman, Simqu and outside hitter Kathryn Attar ’21 accredited the victory to their tenacious mentality.

“Will is better than skill,” Appleman said.

While talent on the Yale side is relatively spread out among players, the Tigers have a few key individuals who appear to drive play. Outside hitter Maggie O’Connell led with 22 kills and a 0.405 hitting average, and setter Jessie Harris recorded a career-high 66 assists.

Princeton emerged as one of the Bulldogs’ most prevailing competitors in 2015 when the Tigers claimed the Ivy League championship and went on to win again in 2016 and 2017. Two years ago, the Tigers swept the Elis 3–0 in the play-in game for the NCAA bid at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. On the condition of a Yale victory on Friday, the Bulldogs will have a two-game win streak against Princeton for the first time since 2014–15.

“[Princeton] has some amazing offensive weapons,” Appleman said. “I’m not sure that we played as well as we can play, so I’m excited about Friday’s match because I feel like we still have more to show … I feel like we are in really good condition right now, and I feel we have a lot of strong athletes right now. [The crowd] will be the one thing we are missing on Friday night.”

Arnautou earned Ivy League Player of the Week on Monday — her second weekly honor this season after being named Ivy League Player of the Year in 2018.

Since Princeton has a 5–3 set advantage over Yale this season, the game will now be played at the Tigers’ home court in Dillon Gymnasium.

“We are so pumped to be Ivy champs and are very excited to get back in the gym this week,” outside hitter Bonnie Bostic ’23 said. “We are thrilled for the opportunity to play again this weekend.”

The Bulldogs will square up against Princeton on Friday at 7 p.m.

Margaret Hedeman | margaret.hedeman@yale.edu

Rehan Melwani | rehan.melwani@yale.edu