November 15, 2008

Bulldogs Capture Ivy League Title With Sweep of Princeton

Nov. 15, 2008

Box Score |  Post-Match Celebration Photo Gallery 

PRINCETON, N.J. - After winning a five-set thriller at Penn on Friday night, the Yale volleyball team went into Saturday's match with Princeton needing a win to clinch the Ivy League Title outright. The Tigers, the defending champions, needed a win to keep their hopes of sharing the title with the Bulldogs alive. After three back-and-forth sets, the scoreboard read 3-0 in favor of Yale, who captured their third Ivy League Title in program history. Yale previously won an outright title in 1978 and shared the Ivy crown with Cornell, Harvard and Princeton in 2004.

The Bulldogs, winners of 15 of their last 16 matches, improved to 19-4 overall and 13-1 in the Ivy League, the team's best Ancient Eight record since the league switched to a 14-match format in 2001. Princeton fell to 17-4 overall and 11-2 in league contests.

"We played like champions," said Yale Head Coach Erin Appleman, who claimed her second Ivy crown in her sixth season with the Bulldogs. "This match couldn't have been any closer, but we showed a lot of heart in earning the win."

Yale was led by the pair of juniors that fronted the offensive effort all season: Alexis Crusey and Cat Dailey. Crusey tallied 16 kills and a match-best 20 digs. Dailey led all players with 19 kills and added 12 digs. Freshman Bridget Hearst tallied seven kills, junior Laurel Johnson notched six and senior Ally Mendenhall finished with two kills.

Mendenhall, the captain of the 2008 Bulldogs, also ran the offense to the tune of a match-best 39 assists. Sophomore libero Kelly Ozurovich led the way defensively with 21 digs.

Though the match will go down as a sweep, the Bulldogs definitely worked overtime en route to claiming the Ivy League crown. The first two sets of the match both went to extra points, with Yale claiming each frame by a score of 28-26. The first set consisted of 13 ties and four lead changes, while the second set included two lead changes and nine deadlocks.

With the Ivy title in their grasp, the Bulldogs maintained their intensity heading into the third set. Yale held a convincing 17-10 advantage, but the Tigers proved why they are the defending Ivy League Champions, closing the gap to only two points at 23-21. A kill from Crusey pushed the match to championship point and, after a Princeton kill, Cat Dailey slammed a finisher to wrap up the Ivy League Title for the Bulldogs.

Dillon Gymnasium was jam-packed with 418 spectators, including a large Yale contingent. The athletic department scheduled a complimentary student bus that brought fellow Bulldogs to Princeton to witness the historic match.

"We owe a lot to our fan support throughout the season, and especially tonight," said Appleman of the raucous crowd. "The athletic department showed great support for our program."

Reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Parker Henritze led Princeton with 14 kills. Setter Bailey Robinson distributed 35 assists, and Hillary Ford led the Tigers with 17 digs.

Before the NCAA Tournament field is announced on Nov. 30, the Bulldogs will play a pair of matches in the Golden State. Yale travels to nationally-ranked San Diego on Tuesday, Nov. 25, and treks to Los Angeles for a Nov. 29 match at Loyola Marymount.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity

Video by Neil Horowitz '09, Yale Sports Publicity