Bulldogs Celebrate 2008 Ivy League Championship Season at Year-End Banquet

Feb. 10, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Though the Yale volleyball team has already begun its pre-season workouts for the 2009 campaign, the squad took a much-deserved break on Saturday evening to look back upon an historic 2008 Ivy League Championship season. The event, held in the Varsity Room of the Ray Tompkins House adjacent to Payne Whitney Gymnasium, celebrated a quartet of graduating seniors as well as the accomplishments of several other Bulldogs from this past season.

The 2008 Bulldogs posted a record of 21-6, won the Ivy League Championship outright with a 13-1 league mark and went on to defeat Ohio in an NCAA Championship First Round match. Already the only Ivy League volleyball program to win an NCAA Championship match (Albany, 2004), the win over Ohio also made Yale the first squad to do so away from its home court. Including the postseason victory over Ohio, the Bulldogs defeated three NCAA Championship participants in 2008. Additionally, five of Yale's six losses came at the hands of NCAA Championship participants, including two setbacks at Penn State, the eventual undefeated National Champions.

Yale Head Coach Erin Appleman, who boasts a career winning percentage of .709 (107-44) in six seasons in New Haven, Associate Head Coach Kevin Laseau and Assistant Coach Jim Borbas presented awards for the Most Valuable Player, the Most Improved Player and the Coaches' Award.

"As coaches, we are always looking forward to the next match," said Appleman. "There were so many memories from this past season-- our 30th Anniversary celebration, my 100th win, the Ivy League Championship-- that Kevin, Jim and I have finally had the chance to look back on and cherish."

Most Valuable Player honors, presented by Coach Laseau, were shared by senior setter Ally Mendenhall, the captain of the 2008 Bulldogs, and junior outside hitter Cat Dailey, the unanimous selection for Ivy League Player of the Year this season. Mendenhall, a 2008 first team All-Ivy selection after twice being named to the second team in her career, finished her run at Yale ranked third on the all-time assists list with 3,173. The senior captain was ranked third in the Ivy League with 10.19 assists per set and dished out 30 or more assists on 22 occasions. She was named Ivy League Player of the Week after her performance in the UAlbany Classic in September and earned slots on both the UAlbany Classic and Yale Invitational All-Tournament Teams. Mendenhall also earned team MVP honors in 2007.

Dailey, playing in her first season at Yale after two seasons at California-Berkeley, added a first team All-Ivy selection and an AVCA All-Northeast Region Honorable Mention to her Ivy League Player of the Year laurel. She led the Bulldogs with 3.73 kills per set and led all players with 4.24 kills per set in Ivy League matches. Dailey reached the 20-kill plateau in six matches and posted double figures in digs on 17 occasions en route to recording 14 double-doubles on the season. She was the only two-time Ivy League Player of the Week this season, and was selected to the season-opening Yale Invitational All-Tournament Team.

The Most Improved Player award, presented by Coach Borbas, was given to freshman middle blocker Taylor Cramm. Cramm, who entered the starting lineup on Sept. 26 at Albany and never missed a set from that point forward, averaged 1.45 kills and a team-best 1.02 blocks per set, the second highest blocking averaging in the Ivy League. She recorded five or more blocks in six matches in 2008, including an 11-block performance in the Bulldogs' pivotal five-set victory at Penn on Nov. 14.

Appleman presented the Coaches' Award, given annually to the player who best demonstrates the intangibles both on and off of the court that help the team succeed, to senior middle blocker Kristen Wilk. Wilk, an All-Ivy honorable mention in her freshman season, appeared in 34 sets over 16 matches in 2008, averaging 0.88 kills and 0.68 blocks per set. She finishes her Yale career at 10th all-time in blocks with 209 and seventh all-time in hitting percentage at .236.

To conclude the festivities, Mendenhall, Wilk and fellow seniors Courtney Hall and Allison Kaptur were honored for their four years of service to the Yale volleyball program. The Class of 2009 won 10 or more Ivy League matches in four consecutive seasons and wrapped up its career with a .730 winning percentage (73-27), the highest for any Yale class that played four varsity seasons.

"These seniors helped change the culture of Yale volleyball," said Appleman. "They were the first class in my time here to realize that, though talent is important, hard work and dedication are the real keys to success."

The Bulldogs will return two first team All-Ivy players next season, Dailey and three-time first team selection Alexis Crusey. The 2009 schedule features 12 non-conference matches, including contests against nationally-prominent teams American, Colorado, Georgetown and UCLA, prior to the Ivy League opener against Brown on Oct. 2.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity