Women's Volleyball: Yale tops Tigers to claim conference title
With a 3-0 victory over Brown on Friday, the women’s volleyball team set up a showdown with first-place Yale to keep its conference title hopes alive. But at Dillon Gymnasium on Saturday evening, the Bulldogs won a three-set battle over the Tigers (12-10 overall, 9-3 Ivy League) to clinch the outright Ivy League crown.
Princeton’s senior cocaptains started off the weekend strong in their victory over the Bears (6-16, 2-10). Outside hitter Lydia Rudnick recorded 13 kills and four blocks, right side hitter Jennifer Palmquist had seven kills and three blocks and setter Molly Bagshaw recorded 16 assists and six digs.
Down set point in the first period, Bagshaw assisted Rudnick for a kill and two points later the Tigers won 27-25. Palmquist closed out the second set with a block, and Rudnick scored the final decisive kill in the third to close out the victory in three tight sets, 27-25, 25-23, 25-22.
Saturday’s match against the Bulldogs (16-5, 12-0) featured the top two teams in the conference, and Princeton, entering the final weekend of league play, had to win in order to stay in the title hunt. The first set was a back-and-forth battle, but with Princeton serving down 20-21, Yale took control of the match with four consecutive kills to win the first set 25-20.
The Bulldogs’ attack continued relentlessly in the second set, which they seized by a comfortable 25-16 margin, quieting most of the Princeton crowd that had come to support the girls in spandex. But neither the Tigers nor their supporters went down without a fight, as the rowdy fans continued heckling the Bulldogs — especially libero Maddie Rudnick, the younger sister of Princeton’s Lydia.
The Tigers had opportunities to win the third set, but in the end the Bulldogs made fewer errors and found holes in Princeton’s defense. Still, the hosts found themselves ahead 23-22 before a costly service error evened the score. The Tigers rebounded to earn their first set point, but a kill by Bulldogs setter Kelly Johnson tied the score at 24-24, and a second kill gave Yale match point.
The crowd held its breath as sophomore setter Ginny Willis set up Rudnick for an attack; as she has done her whole career, Rudnick came up with a key kill in her final home match to even the count at 25-25.
But after an error by freshman right side hitter Kendall Peterkin moments later, Yale clinched the Ivy League title with a 25-20, 25-16, 28-26 victory.
“Yale’s volleyball team is especially strong,” Bagshaw said. “We were definitely the underdog heading into the match, and we needed all of the pieces to come together in order to win, and unfortunately this last Saturday they just didn’t ... Yale was able to keep their errors to a minimum and utilize many different hitters, and unfortunately the heart that we showed at the end of the third game wasn’t enough to stop them.”
Princeton travels to New York for the final weekend of its 2012 season; it faces Cornell on Friday and Columbia on Saturday. Both teams fell to the Tigers earlier in the season at Princeton.
“It is surreal knowing that I have played in my last game at Dillon Gym,” Bagshaw said. “After 10 years of playing volleyball year-round, the time has come to hang up the kneepads, and the reality of that probably won’t hit me until the springtime. I’m excited for the younger girls to dominate next year, but also sad to have to miss it. As disappointing as it is that the title slipped out of our hands this year, we will still be able to be proud of this season for what we’ve accomplished and the strength of our program.”
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