VOLLEYBALL: Bulldogs sweep Penn and undefeated Princeton, push winning streak to 13
Yale faced off against two Ivies to wrap up the first half of their conference schedule, toppling both opponents to stretch their winning streak to 13 games and remain undefeated in the Ivy League.
Yale’s volleyball team (15–1, 7–0 Ivy) is now the only undefeated team in the Ivy League.
In a critical weekend of Ivy play, the Bulldogs faced their stiffest competition of the season as they faced off against conference foes Princeton (14–3, 6–1) and Penn (2–15, 1–6).
The banner matchup of the weekend was the Eli’s Friday night showdown against Princeton. The two teams entered the game tied for first in the Ivy League. Each rode winning streaks of at least 10 games and had beaten every Ivy League team they had played. Over 600 Yale fans packed John J. Lee Amphitheater to see who would remain undefeated in conference play.
The Elis rose to the occasion and swept the Tigers. Head coach Erin Appleman credited the home crowd for giving her team a critical boost.
“[I was] excited and thrilled that we were able to turn around and play great at home,” Appleman told the News. “We had an incredible, incredible crowd that really lifted us up and I thought we finished really well. Team chemistry is great. We have a lot of young kids playing but they’re really building and they trust each other a lot.”
In the first set, the Tigers raced out to an early 6–2 lead as the Bulldogs struggled to find their footing. The Blue and White scrapped their way back into the set, turning a 12–15 deficit into a 16–16 tie, before running away to claim the set with a score of 25–21.
The Bulldogs got it done with a balanced effort, winning four points off of aces and 11 more from kills.
“We are a very talented group this year,” Maile Somera ’24 said. “We have a well-rounded team that is motivated for a ring. We have always had the pieces but we are finally meshing together and playing as a unit. More than ever we are ready to dominate and show the league what Yale Volleyball looks like.”
The second set began with a competitive start. Both teams battled back and forth to make it 12–10. Momentum shifted in the Bulldogs’ direction, however, when Fatima Samb ’25 landed a kill and repeated Princeton errors sparked a Blue and White takeover. In front of a roaring crowd, the Bulldogs went on a 13–2 run to win the set 25–12.
The third set followed a similar script. The Bulldogs surged to a 5–0 lead and quelled any Princeton rallies for the rest of the night, pulling ahead by as much as 10 points before eventually winning the set 25–16.
With the win, the Bulldogs preserved their undefeated status and spoiled Princeton’s. Having knocked the Tigers off of their shared spot atop the Ivy League, the Blue and White launched themselves in prime position to compete for the Ivy crown as they entered the second half of the conference schedule.
“It feels great to go through the first half of the conference undefeated,” Somera said. “We knew that this was going to be a tough weekend, and we were able to rise to the occasion and perform at home.”
The next night, Yale swept Penn to go two-for-two over the weekend. The Quakers, having won only one Ivy League game, mustered a fight which made the Bulldog sweep anything but easy.
Although the Bulldogs raced to a 6–1 start in the first set of the game, Penn rallied to tie the score at 10–10. From there, neither team was able to build any momentum, leading to a 24–24 score, pushing the set into extra time. The Bulldogs emerged victorious by staving off one set point to win it 28–26.
The Elis controlled the action in the second and third sets, winning by scores of 25–19 and 25–15 respectively. Overall, the Bulldogs hit 43 kills to the Quakers’ 27 and hit six aces to Penn’s four.
Gigi Barr ’25 and Audrey Leak ’24 led the Bulldogs with 12 kills each. Leak faced off against her sister and Quakers’ captain, Autumn Leak.
“The wins against Penn and Princeton are two very good wins for us,” Cara Shultz ’25 said. “They’re both very talented teams that challenged us, and I feel we got better as a team this weekend, which will help us going forward. Every win motivates us more, and we are very hungry for a championship. We have great leadership, and we work hard every day to be the best team we can be.”
The wins took on added meaning not only for their importance in the standings, but also because they took place in front of a crowd of alumni who attended the game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of women’s athletics at Yale.
At halftime of the Princeton game, a group of former Blue and White volleyball players gathered on the court to commemorate their role in building the women’s athletics community on campus.
Somera said that it was “an honor” to play in front of the group of alumni and that she appreciated the perspective on athletics that the women offered.
“We are incredibly grateful for the many women who paved the way for our success,” said Somera.
One volleyball alum, Kate Aitkenhead ’19, had high praise for the current team.
“They look very good, very focused and very hungry,” Aitkenhead said.
The Bulldogs will look to extend their winning streak to 14 when they host Brown next Friday night.