Tag Archive: Volleyball

  1. VOLLEYBALL: Yale prepares for key home matches

    Leave a Comment

    As the home stretch approaches, the Yale volleyball team has its eyes set on once again claiming the Ivy League title — a trophy it has claimed six times in the past eight years. To do so, the Bulldogs may need to sweep the remainder of its games, including matchups this weekend against two gritty opponents.

    The Elis (13–4, 6–2 Ivy) trail only undefeated Princeton atop the Ivy League standings heading into Friday’s game against a confident, surging Cornell team (9–9, 3–5). Revenge will be on the minds of the Bulldogs on Saturday night, when they host Columbia (10–8, 5–3), a team which handed Yale its first conference loss of the season in a dramatic five-set nail-biter in New York on Sept. 30.

    “If we want to contend for the Ivy League championship, we have to win the rest of our games,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “We’re at home, and we’re at home for four of the six [remaining conference] competitions … so we have to take care of business at home and then go on the road at the end of the year [to vie for the title].”

    Although Yale handled Cornell 3–1 in Ithaca early this month, the Big Red is a legitimate threat in its own right. A day after a close five-set loss at Dartmouth on Oct. 14, Cornell overcame a 9–1 fifth-set deficit at Harvard to topple the Crimson 15–12. That momentum carried over to last Friday, when the relentless Big Red vanquished Columbia, led by right-side hitter Kit McCarty, who notched 16 kills.

    Cornell is indeed no stranger to long matches, as it has played the most sets in conference competition of any Ivy League team.

    “Going to five sets so many times is indicative of our mental state in matches,” Cornell head coach Trudy Vande Berg said. “Beating Harvard on the road really got that monkey off our back. … This team is starting to feel confidence in [its] ability to win, [but] we know that there isn’t a match in the Ivies that won’t be an all-out battle.”

    The Big Red’s first matchup with Yale was one such clash. Cornell actually outperformed the Bulldogs in all major statistical categories, but strong defense from libero Kate Swanson ’19 and a nearly flawless attack from outside hitter Kelley Wirth ’19 overcame this deficit. The Elis bookended the victory with extremely efficient sets, hitting 0.429 and 0.438 in the first and fourth sets, respectively. Vande Berg attributed her team’s loss to Yale to a lack of execution in key moments, and said her team was “tentative.”

    In that contest, Cornell’s senior setter, Alyssa Phelps, posted a match-high 49 assists. If she maintains her high-level play this weekend, she will put her name in the Ivy League record books as the 20th player in conference history with 3,000 career assists.

    Although it faltered against Cornell last Friday, Columbia, too, is a formidable opponent. Yale’s only five-set match of the conference season came against the Lions, who outmuscled the Bulldogs at the net in the first two sets to create what was ultimately an insurmountable advantage. Freshman middle blocker Chichi Ikwuazom racked up six kills and three block assists in the opening two frames, while the Elis committed more errors than kills over the same stretch. Columbia finished with 14 total blocks, eight more than the Bulldogs.

    Ikwuazom, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week, has dominated all year at the net, leading the conference with 1.41 blocks per set; the next closest player, Darmouth’s Kaira Lujan, averages only 1.07 rejections. Ikwuazom also leads the Ancient Eight with a sweltering 0.439 hitting percentage. Complementing this offensive firepower is the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, Cassie Wes, who ranks sixth in the nation with 5.33 digs per set.

    “I think in the matches that we’ve lost, in the sets that we’ve lost, it’s really been about us not performing where we need to perform,” Appleman said. “We’re really concentrating on us and our side of the net [to] figure out what we can do to continue a high level of play all the time.”

    Maintaining that consistency has been a focus for a Yale team on the cusp of the highest caliber of play of the conference. After quickly dispatching Brown in the first two sets last Friday, Yale struggled to keep the ball in the court in a 25–19 third-set loss. The Bulldogs continued to look shaky in the fourth frame but were ultimately able to avoid a fifth set and secure yet another home conference victory, the team’s 44th such win in 45 matches dating back to 2010.

    Appleman cited the team’s youth as a possible contributor to these lapses, and hoped that the Bulldogs would be able to maintain the focus necessary to compete in as many sets are needed against their upcoming opponents.

    “We always have a sense of urgency when playing any team,” setter Kelsey Crawford ’18 said. “Our game plan is to focus on one game at a time and control what we do and how we perform.”

    The match against Cornell will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, and the contest with Columbia will tip off at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

  2. VOLLEYBALL | Road trip looms for Bulldogs

    Leave a Comment

    It is time for the endless New York swing.

    The volleyball team will log almost 12 hours on the road this weekend when it travels to Cornell and Columbia for its second and third Ivy matches of the season.

    “It’s tough when you have a long road trip, but it’s also kind of fun because we bond on the bus so it’s also a team building experience,” outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 said. “We try to make it fun.”

    The Bulldogs (5–5, 1–0 Ivy) opened their conference schedule last weekend with a Saturday matchup against Brown. Although Yale took away a 3–1 victory in that match, Brown made Yale work for the win by capturing the third set and pushing the Elis past 25 points in two others.

    As has been the case for most of the season, setter Kendall Polan ’14 will lead the Bulldogs’ efforts. Polan was named the conference Player of the Week for the second time in four weeks, which already matches her total from last year. Polan had triple-doubles against Albany and Brown and logged 2.86 kills per set, 8.43 assists per set and a .429 hitting percentage.

    Last season, Yale beat both Cornell and Columbia twice, but lost three sets to the Lions. That included a tightly contested 3–2 Yale win in New Haven in which Columbia rallied from a 0–2 deficit to force a fifth set.

    “We work on preparing for each team like they’re our hardest opponent,” Rogers said. “We learned that from our five-set match with [Columbia] last year.”

    This weekend’s opponents have already played each other this season. Columbia (6–4, 1–0 Ivy) came out of that battle with a decisive 3–0 victory, in which they outscored Cornell 75–56. That match adds to a trend that has seen Columbia rise to new heights and Cornell reach new lows since 2009.

    The Lions have climbed out of the conference basement over the last few seasons and been a dangerous match-up for the Bulldogs. From 2007 to 2009, Columbia compiled a 3–39 Ivy record, which included two 0–14 seasons. But over the past two seasons, the Lions have gone 17–11 in Ivy play and finished third in the conference both years.

    On the other hand, Cornell (3–8, 0–1 Ivy) appears to be continuing a slide that has seen them fall from the conference elite. The Big Red went 24–4 in conference play during 2005 and 2006 and won the Ivy title each year. But since 2009, Cornell has compiled a meager 8–34 record in Ancient Eight play.

    This year, the Lions will likely prove to be the more difficult match-up. Columbia has won four straight matches against Colgate University, University of Rhode Island, Hofstra University and Cornell. The Lions and the Bulldogs have played one common opponent, Texas A&M University from the SEC. Yale managed to take a set from the Aggies whereas Columbia was swept, perhaps indicating an advantage for the Bulldogs. Setter Kelly Johnson ’16 said that the team tries to ignore this kind of comparison.

    “We try to put it in the back of our mind,” she said. “Columbia is a great team and they might have just had an off game. We just try to look at the strategy for our side and focus on us instead of focusing on them.”

    The Bulldogs begin the weekend by traveling to Cornell for a 7 p.m. match Friday night and follow that up with a 5 p.m. match at Columbia on Saturday.

  3. Kelly Johnson ’16 makes positive impact

    Leave a Comment

    Kelly Johnson ’16 is a setter on the volleyball team from Palos Verdes, Calif. During her career at Palos Verdes High School, Johnson was an All-Area selection twice and captained the varsity team her junior and senior years. This season, she is second on the team in kills and assists with 91 and 185, respectively, and was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week on Sept. 18. The News sat down with her to discuss her high school career, beach volleyball, and the transition to the college game.

    Q When did you start playing volleyball? Were you playing other sports at the time?

    A I started when I was 11. I was playing volleyball, basketball, soccer and softball. I loved sports as a kid, and I still love them all. Once I got into high school, I quit all the other sports and I just focused on volleyball.

    Q When did you realize you would have the opportunity to play at the collegiate level?

    A In my sophomore year of high school. That’s when most of the college coaches come to tournaments and start the recruiting process, so it was around then that I realized I could go to college and play volleyball.

    Q What is the volleyball culture in Los Angeles like?

    A It’s very intense. There are over 200 club teams just in Southern California in each age division. If you see a tall girl on the street, she’s probably a volleyball player. It’s also big because of the beach.

    Q I know that volleyball players tend to play different positions throughout their careers. When did you begin playing setter?

    A I was a hitter up until my sophomore year of high school, and I had a pretty bad shoulder injury. I didn’t want to stop altogether so I started setting for my team. I set for a couple years and just did exercises to strengthen my shoulder and then I was able to go back to hitting and setting. That’s what I did my senior year and that is what I’m doing here now at Yale.

    Q What do you think makes for a good setter?

    A I think to be a good setter, you have to be confident in your team. You have to have a large leadership role on the team. You have to be able to keep your hitters confident, and you have to be able to pump up your hitters. A good setter is very aware of the court and what’s happening on the other side of the net as well.

    Q What makes you feel better — getting a kill or an assist?

    A I don’t know. They’re both pretty good. They’re just different. When you set someone and they get a kill, you feel like you helped out a teammate, but when Kendall [Polan ’14] gives me the perfect set and I get a kill, it’s also great. They’re both great feelings. The kill is probably a bit better, but I love the set as well.

    Q From reading the [Yale Athletics] website, I saw that you’ve played some beach volleyball. What was the extent of your experience in that sport?

    A I started playing when I was 13. I wouldn’t have much time during the year because club was so intense, but during the summer I was at the beach quite frequently playing. It’s really fun because you can get a big group of people and go practice whenever you want. This summer and last summer were probably my two biggest summers playing beach volleyball.

    Q Did you play competitively or just recreationally?

    A I played in tournaments. The California Beach Volleyball Association and the [Amateur Athletic Union] beach volleyball league are two leagues that sponsor tournaments, and I would travel with my partner to the different tournaments.

    Q How did playing beach volleyball help your indoor game?

    A It really helps because beach volleyball is a lot about strategy and where to place the ball. It helps if you’re a hitter because it helps your vision of the other side of the court and helps you place the ball in spots where they’re not. It also helps you get a better vision of where they are. Overall, it makes you a smarter volleyball player.

    Q: What did you enjoy watching more in the Olympics — beach volleyball or indoor volleyball?

    A: I liked watching beach volleyball more. I’m a big Misty May [Treanor] and Kerri Walsh fan.

    Q: On the court, you play setter alongside Polan. What has it been like playing the same position as a great player like her?

    A: It is an absolutely unbelievable working with her. I could not have gotten luckier having a setter and hitter like her. She’s a phenomenal player and helps me so much with having confidence in myself and teaching me what the other hitters like because she has played with them longer. She gives me feedback on my sets and teaches me how Yale volleyball works.

    Q: The freshman class has already been asked to contribute in a big way this year. How do you think you guys have responded to that pressure?

    A: I think the freshmen are responding well. We’re all pretty nervous, but we just try to put it aside and play the best we can.

  4. VOLLEYBALL | Elis begin title defense

    Leave a Comment

    The volleyball team escaped its first weekend of Ivy play with a 3–1 win over a feisty Brown squad in Providence, R.I.

    The Bulldogs (5–5, 1–0 Ivy) prevailed following a tightly contested fourth set during which Brown mounted a formidable comeback. Although they faced set point at 25–24, the Bulldogs pulled through for a 27–25 triumph and a 3–1 match win. Outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 said that it was a character-building win for the team.

    “Starting [Ivy League play] with a loss is not ideal,” she said. “The fact that we were able to play those tough games says a lot about our team. It’s great practice to pull off those types of matches.”

    Brown (3–7, 0–1 Ivy) won the third set to pull within 2–1 and built early 5–0 and 10–4 leads in the fourth set. Yale responded with an offensive spurt to pull within 13–12 and eventually held a 24–22 lead.

    But on the cusp of victory, Rogers and Kelly Johnson ’16 made consecutive attack errors, and Brown’s Kathryn Glickman notched a kill to give Brown a 25–24 lead. With set point in hand, Brown’s Kathryn Conner bailed out the Elis with a service error to tie the score at 25. On the next point Jesse Ebner ’16 logged a service ace, and Rogers finished the match with a kill.

    That was not the first time in the match that the Elis faced set point. Down 1–0, Brown pushed Yale to the brink in the second set and led 24–23 following a kill from Shannon Frost. Following ties at 25 and 26, Yale put a 28–26 win away with a kill by Ebner. Ebner said that although the team struggled at times throughout the match, it pulled it together during the high-pressure situations.

    “I thought that our performance overall was a little shaky,” she said. “But at the end of games we snapped back into it. At the end of those close games we had so much energy, and we played as a team.”

    After the first set it looked like history would repeat itself and Yale would sweep the Bears for a third straight time. With just a 10–9 lead in the first set, something clicked for the Bulldogs, and they took off on a 15–6 run to capture a convincing 25–15 opening victory.

    Brown went on to drop the second set as well, but bounced back for a 25–20 victory in the third game. Amanda Nickel led the Bears in their only win of the afternoon with five of her match-high 15 kills. Maddie Lord, who was Brown’s primary offensive threat heading into the match, notched 13 kills herself, including two of the final three points of the third set. Rogers said that Brown provided a stiff challenge to the Bulldogs.

    “Brown played pretty well, and it was our first Ivy match so there was probably some nerves,” she said. “They came out solid, and we had a little trouble handling that.”

    On Yale’s side of the net, Rogers led the offense. She had a team-high 14 kills and also added 15 digs. Setter Kendall Polan ’14 recorded her second straight triple-double with 10 kills, 31 assists and 20 digs, and Ebner led the squad with a .348 hitting percentage.

    The Bulldogs hit the road again this weekend to take on Columbia and Cornell.

  5. VOLLEYBALL | Bulldogs hit the road

    Leave a Comment

    After a challenging preseason, it is finally time for Ivy League play to begin for the volleyball team.

    The Bulldogs will begin their quest for a third straight conference title this Saturday, when they travel to Providence, R.I., to take on Brown (3–6). This weekend’s match is the beginning of a difficult stretch of five away contests that will keep Yale on the road until Oct. 12. This represents a new challenge for the Elis, who started last season by playing their first five league matches in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

    “It’s definitely going to be difficult,” libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 said. “Playing on the road is always a little tougher. You have to get used to a new gym and different lighting … but I think we can pull through and get some wins.”

    This weekend’s matches will be just the second time Yale (4–5) hits the road this season after traveling to San Diego last weekend. Yale dropped all three of those matches, which continues a trend the team has developed over the last two years. Going back to 2010, the Elis have played to a sterling 25–4 record at home but have won just 14 of 30 matches played on the road.

    Although Yale did not manage to win a match last weekend, the Ivy League honored two Bulldogs for their performances. Setter Kelly Johnson ’16 shared her first Rookie of the Week award with Columbia’s Atlanta Moye-McLauren and outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 was named to the conference’s honor roll.

    In just her first season, Johnson has been a key player for the Bulldogs. Following the nonconference portion of their schedule, Johnson is second on the team in kills with 78 and second on the team in assists with 161. Head coach Erin Appleman said that she feels the entire freshman class is ready to take on Ivy opponents.

    “I think [the freshmen] are getting more mature as we keep playing,” she said. “Jesse [Ebner], Karlee [Fuller] and Kelly [Johnson] have all played club ball at a really high level, so I think the pressure of the Ivy League is not going to affect them as much as it would young freshmen.”

    Brown is currently mired in an early slump. In their past six matches, the Bears have won just three of a possible 18 sets and been swept five times. However, three of those squads were from the West Coast, where the quality of collegiate volleyball tends to be higher, and two were from major conferences.

    That stretch includes a trip to New Haven for the Yale Invitational two weeks ago. While at Yale, Brown was defeated 3–0 by both Northwestern and Villanova. In that same weekend, Yale won a set from Northwestern and defeated Villanova with a 3–1 come-from-behind victory.

    “Brown is on the upswing and they’ve definitely improved,” Appleman said about the Bears. “They played tremendous defense [at the Yale Invitational], and Maddie Lord is a very good offensive threat for them.”

    Lord led Brown in kills last year and finished fourth in the conference with 3.28 per set. But she did not find success against the Bulldogs last season. Instead, Lord had two of her worst performances of the season. In the Ivy opener, Lord recorded two kills and eight errors for an abysmal -0.316 hitting percentage.

    The action begins at 2 p.m. on Friday in Brown’s Pizzitola Sports Center.

  6. VOLLEYBALL | Elis bounce back against Albany

    Leave a Comment

    Members of the volleyball team put an 0–3 weekend behind them and finished off their nonconference schedule in emphatic fashion on Wednesday night with a 3–0 trouncing of Albany in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

    The Elis’ strong play was a welcome sight after they won just one set against three difficult opponents during a trip to San Diego, Calif., last weekend. Head coach Erin Appleman said that the win puts Yale into a good position heading into conference play.

    “I was really proud of them tonight,” she said. “I think it helps getting that win and having confidence going in [to the weekend].”

    The Bulldogs took the match in just one hour and 16 minutes and put Albany through a thorough beating in the process. The Great Danes scored just 44 points to Yale’s 75 and mustered a measly .140 hitting percentage. Meanwhile, Yale hit .378, accumulated 51 assists and had three players hit double-digit kills.

    Appleman said she saw encouraging improvements from everybody on the court.

    “We’ve been working on a couple things, and we were able to demonstrate that tonight,” she said. “Our serving and passing was much better tonight, and I thought the middles were very good.”

    Outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 was the offensive leader for Yale with 12 kills while middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16 and setter Kendall Polan ’14 combined to log 20 kills in just 32 attempts.

    On the other side of the net, Albany’s greatest offensive threat, Sara Pope, did not manage to mount much of a challenge to the Yale defense. Pope, who is leading the Great Danes with 2.36 kills per set, posted just five kills on 18 attempts for a .222 hitting percentage.

    It looked like it might be a closely contested match after the first set. Following a kill from Albany’s Gabby Whitworth midway through the set, the Bulldogs led just 17–16. But an Albany service error sparked a Yale surge. Captain and middle blocker Haley Wessels ’13 notched three kills, including the final one of the set, and Yale closed Albany out, 25–19 result.

    Yale did not look back after that. In both the second and third sets the team took early 7–3 leads and led the rest of the way for 25–14 and 25–11 victories. Libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 said that the success of the first set set the stage for the rest of the game.

    “We had more confidence after the first set,” she said. “Sometimes we let down a bit but we just pushed even harder tonight throughout the second and third sets.”

    The Bulldogs will begin their conference schedule on the road this weekend when they travel to Brown for a 2 p.m. match on Saturday.

  7. Appleman brings Yale volleyball onto national stage


    Head volleyball coach Erin Appleman is closing in on a decade of dynastic success.

    Since her first season as head coach in 2003, Appleman has quietly built the volleyball team into an Ivy League powerhouse and accomplished feats that no other coach in Yale volleyball history can match. The program has won four of its five Ancient Eight titles under Appleman’s direction and has 98 conferences wins, the most of any Ivy team over the past nine seasons. Team captain Haley Wessels ’13 said Appleman’s competitive nature has fueled the team’s success during Wessels’ time at Yale.

    “Erin is the kind of woman that’s very competitive,” Wessels said. “She has instilled that in all of us. She has that want-to-win attitude and we go out there every day with that same attitude from her.”

    During her first two seasons in New Haven, Appleman revitalized Yale volleyball and raised the bar for Ivy League teams on the national stage.

    But things were not always so rosy for Yale volleyball. When Appleman took over the position from Peg Scofield, she was only the fourth head coach in the program’s history. Despite the long coaching tenures, Yale had not finished above third in the regular season standings since 1996, nor had the team won a league title since 1978. Although she was initially impressed with the team’s talent level, Appleman said she thought it needed a spark.

    “I thought we had some good athletes that just needed organization,” she said. “They just needed a little more discipline in order to be successful. They wanted to feel like their time was being put to good use so I think they were eager and desired to be successful.”

    It did not take Appleman much time to turn things around. In 2004, just her second season at the team’s helm, the Bulldogs reversed their fortunes in dramatic fashion. Not only did they win their first conference title in 26 years, but they also became the first Ivy League squad ever to win an NCAA tournament match when they defeated Albany 3–1 in the first round.

    Winning was nothing new for Appleman, who worked as an assistant coach under Russ Rose at Penn State for eight seasons before coming to Yale. During her time with the Nittany Lions, who consistently field one of the top squads in the nation, Appleman coached in five Final Fours and won a national title in 1999. Appleman said she draws inspiration from Rose.

    “There are a lot of things [in our program] that come from coach Rose,” she said. “He’s one of the best out there right now, and we do a lot of the things he does because he does it right.”

    Yale’s success did not stop after the 2004 breakthrough. The Elis won the Ivy League crown in three of the past four seasons. In 2008, most likely the greatest Yale volleyball season of all time, the team won 13 of 14 Ivy League contests and another first-round NCAA tournament match against Ohio University. Three players from the team were named First Team All-Ivy, while outside hitter Cat Dailey ’10 was named the conference player of the year.

    Dailey is just one product of Appleman’s ability to lure elite talent to Yale. During her tenure, Yale players have been named to a postseason Ivy League All-Star team on 35 separate occasions, a conference high. Three current players interviewed cited recruiting as one of Appleman’s greatest strengths as a coach. Setter Kelly Johnson ’16, a recent recruit, said Appleman’s recruiting style set her apart from other college coaches.

    “When I went on my recruiting trip, the way she recruited was so pleasurable,” Johnson said. “She wasn’t the coach that was pressuring you so much that it made you nervous or unconfident about your decision. She made you feel good about yourself as a player.”

    This approach led to a few major hauls for the program. Since 2003, two Bulldogs, Dailey and Kendall Polan ’14, earned the Ivy Player of the Year award while three, Alexis Crusey ’10, Polan and Mollie Rogers ’15, earned Ivy Rookie of the Year honors. Despite Johnson’s praise, Appleman added that when it comes to recruiting, Yale tends to sell itself.

    “I’m very fortunate to work at such a prestigious and incredible university,” she said. “I just kind of point that out to players. You have a chance to do it all here. You can win in the classroom and on the court.”

    This season, Yale will head into the Ivy schedule as favorites to win the team’s third title in a row. The Elis have a losing 3–5 record now, but the team has faced some difficult competition from outside the Ivy League.

    But regardless of how high the team manages to climb under Appleman in the future, Yale fans have no need to fear losing her to a larger, more established program.

    “I have had offers throughout the years,” Appleman said. “But I’ve really enjoyed working at Yale. I love the student-athletes and I like what Yale offers for me. In many ways, it’s a dream come true.”

  8. VOLLEYBALL | West Coast swing disappoints

    Leave a Comment

    It was another tough trip to California for the volleyball team.

    Yale suffered three straight defeats to U.C. Santa Barbara, San Diego and Fresno State in the Bulldogs’ first trip back to the Golden State since falling to USC in the NCAA tournament last season.

    Seven out of the 12 members of the squad are California natives, and the Elis were expecting to draw a good Yale crowd over the weekend. According to match reports on the Yale Athletics website, a good deal of the fans at Yale’s matches over the weekend were sporting blue and white, including an estimated 50 percent of the crowd for Yale’s 3–0 loss to San Diego on Saturday.“It was a great experience for the freshmen to kind of have a feeling of going home and seeing their family,” outside hitter Erica Reetz ’14 said. “That’s a unique experience. I think it was exciting for people to play in front of their friends and family.”

    Yale faced its toughest opponent when it took on tournament host San Diego (8–2). Although the Bulldogs were supported by about 100 friends, family and volleyball alumni, they dropped the match in a shutout against the No. 16 ranked Toreros.

    It appeared that Yale might catch San Diego off guard in the first set as they had done to Santa Barbara the night before. But with a narrow two-point lead at 15–13 the Toreros took off and scored eight straight points to secure the set.

    Middle hitter Chloe Ferrari was the major thorn in Yale’s side all night. The junior, who was named an Honorable Mention All-American last season, totaled a match-high 13 kills on a pristine .812 hitting percentage.

    Reetz said the Toreros were the best squad the Elis have matched up with this season.

    “They were a very strong and athletic team,” Reetz said. “I think it was a good opportunity to kind of see that level of competition even though we lost that match and to think that there were moments where we could play with them. To have that knowledge and confidence going forward is important to the program.”

    The Bulldogs (3–5) captured their only set of the weekend on Friday night against UC Santa Barbara, when setter Kelly Johnson ’16 recorded her second career double-double with 10 kills, 23 assists and ten digs. Yale struck quickly in the opening set and jumped out to an early 13–4 lead, capped off with a kill by Jesse Ebner ’16. Although the Gauchos (7–7) fought back, another Ebner kill gave Yale the 25–21 victory and a 1–0 lead.

    But that was the last set the Elis won all weekend. They lost each of the remaining three sets against Santa Barbara by at least six points and finished the match with 29 errors, Yale’s highest total of the weekend.

    After the shutout loss against the hosts, Elis managed to mount a greater challenge to Fresno State (7–5) for their last match of the weekend but still could not manage to capture a set in a 3–0 defeat. Yale improved as the match progressed, posting set scores of 18, 21 and 22 and improving their hitting percentage from .118 to .324 by the third set.

    The Fresno State match saw the re-emergence of middle blocker McHaney Carter ’14. Carter, who was a steady contributor last season, had only played six sets in the team’s previous six matches and did not play against Northwestern on Sept. 8. But against the Bulldogs, Carter logged seven kills, the second highest total for Yale in the match, and hit .538.

    The Elis’ next match will be the team’s only midweek game this season. The Elis take on the Albany Great Danes on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

  9. VOLLEYBALL | Bulldogs take on California

    Leave a Comment

    It’s back to the west coast for the volleyball team this weekend.

    The Elis will travel to San Diego to take on UC Santa Barbara (6–5), No. 16 San Diego (5–2) and Fresno St. (5–4) as part of the San Diego Tournament. The Bulldogs (3–2) finished their season in California last year, where they fell 3–0 to USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Because seven of the 12 members of the team are California natives, the Bulldogs drew excellent attendance at their NCAA Tournament match in December and expect a strong crowd this weekend.

    “Being back in Southern California again is amazing,” outside hitter and San Diego native Mollie Rogers ’15 told the News. “We get to play some really talented teams and we will gain a lot of experience. We also get to do so in front of friends and family. It makes the experience so much more fun, almost like you are playing at home.”

    The Bulldogs enter this weekend’s matches after an impressive showing over the first five games of the season. Yale has already taken on three foes from major conferences, including Texas A&M from the Big 12, Villanova from the Big East and Northwestern from the Big Ten. The Elis took a set off both Texas A&M and Northwestern and managed a 3–1 defeat of Villanova.

    Captain and middle blocker Haley Wessels ’13 will be a key part of the Bulldogs’ strategy after being named Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance in the Yale Invitational last weekend. Wessels is the second Bulldog to win the award in the first two weeks of play after setter Kendall Polan ’14 took home the honor two weeks ago.

    Yale will also look to Jesse Ebner ’16 to continue her strong play from last weekend. The middle blocker erupted for 28 kills in the tournament after recording just 11 in the season’s first three matches combined. Her breakout performance both landed her on the Yale Invitational All-Tournament team and earned her a mention on the Ivy League Honor Roll.

    “I just really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity that [head coach Erin Appleman] gave me,” Ebner said. “I was grateful for the opportunity to start and get a lot of playing time. I just wanted to have high energy and be a selfless player.”

    Ebner’s success on the court is part of a Yale attack that is deeper than last season. In 2011, six different players led the Bulldogs in kills on separate occasions. This season, four players — Polan, Karlee Fuller ’16, Rogers and Ebner —­ have already accomplished that feat through the team’s first five matches.

    Last Friday’s match against Villanova was the team’s greatest display of depth so far this season. Five Yale players notched double-digit kills, a number that last year’s team did not reach. Appleman said that a major reason for the even distribution of scoring opportunities has to do with the addition of another setter, Kelly Johnson ’16, on the floor with Polan.

    “The system is a little different,” she said. “We are playing a 6–2 instead of a 5–1, which gives Kendall more swings, and she’s a serious hitter. Our setters are connecting well with our middles, which is opening up more opportunities.”

    The Elis’ stiffest competition this weekend, and likely of the season thus far, will be San Diego. The Toreros, who enter the contest ranked 16th nationally, went an impressive 28–5 last season and fell 3–1 in the second round of the NCAA tournament to eventual champion UCLA.

    The most impressive aspect of the Toreros’ resume this season is a near-win over current No. 3 USC. San Diego pushed the Trojans all the way to a fifth set in that match and outhit the Trojans .222 to .162.

    The action begins on Friday evening at 5 p.m. when the Elis take on UC Santa Barbara. Yale will proceed to play against San Diego and Fresno St on Saturday.

  10. VOLLEYBALL | Elis split two at home

    Leave a Comment

    After two weeks of nonconference play, the volleyball team has made it clear that it does not go down without a fight. In their second consecutive weekend of tournament play in the John J. Lee Ampitheater, the Bulldogs (3–2) rallied from behind to top Villanova on Friday and issued the weekend’s toughest challenge to Northwestern (8–0) on Saturday.

    “I think [this weekend] showed we are a really resilient team, and we play really well together,” middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16 said. “We came out against Villanova and didn’t play our best match, but we still fought, and we didn’t give up when we were down.”

    The peak of the weekend’s excitement occurred during the Friday night opener against Villanova (5–4). The action-packed match reached its crescendo during a fourth set in which Yale completed a thrilling comeback. In that game, Villanova built early leads of 6–0 and 12–3 and Yale did not take Elis in the following set with the come-from-behind victory.for the Elis. Five Yale players recorded double-digit kills, led by Ebner who notched 15 to the tune of a .480 hitting percentage. Outside hitter Erica Reetz ’14 said that such depth makes the Elis offense very dangerous.

    “It helps incredibly to have so many offensive contributors,” Reetz said. “When you have one person on fire, it’s great to be able to feed them the ball. But when you have two, it makes it impossible for the other side to play defense.”

    The weekend’s greatest challenge came on Saturday night against Northwestern, a member of the powerhouse Big Ten conference. The Wildcats established themselves early and built an 18–10 lead, but, once again, the Bulldogs crawled back and nearly stole the set. Down 24–14, Yale scored nine straight to pull within one point but fell just short of completing the comeback to give the Wildcats an opening set victory.

    But just like they did against Villanova, the Elis bounced back and took the second set by a convincing 25-18 score to tie the match at one. Reetz said that the team’s ability to rebound following a first set loss is crucial.

    “It is incredibly important to be able to pick up the morale and intensity and come back out in the second set,” she said. “A lot of teams struggle with that, and it shows a lot about our team character that we can come back from a first game loss.”

    Northwestern went on to take the third and fourth sets but only outscored the Elis 51–46 during those two sets. In the box score Yale dominated Northwestern, making the 3–1 final score somewhat deceptive. The Elis hit .240 to Northwestern’s .176 and blocked nine more shots than the Wildcats.

    “I think we made big strides in blocking,” Appleman said. “Out-blocking a Big Ten team is pretty spectacular, and I was really proud of the effort that they gave.”

    After opening the season with five home matches, the Elis are heading to San Diego to take on University of California-Santa Barbara, San Diego and Fresno State this weekend.

  11. VOLLEYBALL | Tournament time in New Haven

    Leave a Comment

    It’s going to be cats versus dogs in the John J. Lee Amphitheater this weekend. After a strong start in last week’s Yale Classic, the volleyball team (2–1) hopes to maintain its momentum when it faces Wildcat foes from both Villanova and Northwestern in this weekend’s Yale Invitational. The team will use the matchups against its feline foes to continue preparing for its Ivy League schedule, which begins on Sept. 22.

    “The preseason matches are great for us to learn to play together as a team,” outside hitter Mollie Rogers ’15 said. “Especially with so many freshmen, it helps us get into a rhythm as a team. You learn how everyone else plays and how that relates to your playing style, which is really helpful.”

    Leading the charge for Yale will be setter Kendall Polan ’14, who picked up right where she left off last season by winning this year’s first Ivy League Player of the Week award. Polan averaged almost 11 kills, over 22 assists and exactly 11 digs per match and hit an astounding .424 to anchor the Bulldogs.

    But the Elis will need everyone to step up this weekend against two tough foes from major conferences. Although she commended the team’s performance after its first three matches, head coach Erin Appleman said that the team still is not quite where she wants it to be.

    “We’re still trying to figure out what lineups we’re going to be using and trying to improve,” she said. “I don’t think we did as well as we should have in passing and serving last weekend, and we need to get better there.”

    The weekend’s first challenge comes on Friday night against Villanova (4–2), which belongs to the Big East conference and went 17–13 last season. However, the Wildcats are dealing with the loss of libero Kim Maroon, who graduated in the spring. Maroon led the Big East in digs and was named a Third-Team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association last year.

    On Saturday, Yale will play host to the Northwestern Wildcats (5–0). The Wildcats are members of the Big Ten conference, indisputably the strongest in the nation. The Big Ten boasts six teams in the nation’s top 25, including the top two squads, Nebraska and Penn State. Although Northwestern is not considered one of the conference’s strongest teams, the Wildcats picked up quality wins over No. 15 Minnesota, No. 22 Ohio State and No. 2 Nebraska last season.

    “Northwestern is very athletic,” Appleman said. “They’re used to good competition, and I think they’re going to be very talented. It’s a great opportunity for us to have a Big Ten team on campus.”

    Northwestern’s biggest threat will be junior and outside hitter Stephanie Holthus, the only Wildcat to be named to the preseason All-Big Ten team. Holthus notched at least 15 kills in 18 contests last season and was named to the All-Big Ten squad for the first time.

    The action tips off at 7 p.m. on Friday night when the Elis host Villanova.