After a two-year absence from the NCAA tournament, the Yale volleyball team had an opportunity to punch its ticket Saturday night in front of a raucous crowd at John J. Lee Amphitheater. But the battle between the two Ivy co-champions — Yale and Princeton — was one-sided.
Although the Bulldogs led 17–7 at one point in the first set, the Tigers would rally and take the match in straight sets. Princeton’s offense dominated in New Haven, hitting at a 0.230 efficiency compared to a meager 0.153 from Yale. The Elis also beat themselves throughout the match, tallying 20 unforced errors.
In the first set, the Bulldogs capitalized on early kills to take the lead with outside hitter Tristin Kott ’20 notching six herself in just the first frame. The Elis also made strategic ball placement choices, mixing up their line shots and hard cross swings.
At one point, the Bulldogs had a 17–7 advantage over the Tigers. However, due to 10 unforced errors, including three missed serves, Yale gave Princeton the opportunity to close the lead, resulting in a tie at 21. Subsequent kills by outside hitter Natasha Skov and middle hitter Nnenna Ibe helped the Tigers to solidify their comeback and take the set 25–23.
The Bulldogs struggled offensively in the second set, suffering six attack errors, several of which were due to swinging outside the court. Yale trailed Princeton for the entirety of the set and only achieved a 0.158 hitting percentage for the frame, an efficiency that pales in comparison to the Tigers’ 0.333 percentage. Princeton sealed the frame at 25–17 on a kill by Ivy League Player of the Year and right side hitter Maggie O’Connell.
Not only did O’Connell register seven kills in the second frame, but she went on to convert another three in the last set. However, the Bulldogs did not go down without a fight. Returning Princeton’s swings more successfully and playing more strategically, Yale forced 12 tied scorelines in the set. With a solid defensive line, Yale kept the Tigers to a meager 0.085 hitting efficiency.
Working in tandem with the front row, spearheaded by Kott and outside hitter Gray Malias ’19, who notched five and four kills, respectively, the Bulldogs nearly took the last frame, tying the score at 23. Ultimately, two consecutive kills by O’Connell snuffed out the Elis’ hopes of representing the Ivy League at the Big Dance.
The NCAA tournament lineup will be announced on Monday, with Princeton guaranteed an automatic bid.