Volleyball takes two over weekend to move atop Ivy League

by Daniel Lee and Joe Clyne | 10/11/15 6:15pm

Thanks to victories over Yale and Brown Universities at Leede Arena this weekend, the volleyball team climbed into a first-place tie with rival Harvard University for the top spot in the League. On Friday, the Big Green (7-7, 4-1 Ivy) took down one of last year’s Ivy co-champions, the Yale Bulldogs (8-6, 3-2 Ivy), by a three-sets-to-one margin. On Saturday, Dartmouth beat Brown (8-8, 2-3 Ivy) in straight sets for the Big Green’s third-straight Ivy win. Dartmouth’s win over Yale was the Big Green’s first victory against the Bulldogs since Nov. 7, 2009.

Dartmouth started strong right off the bat against Yale, opening the set on a 6-2 run thanks to strong performances by Emily Astarita ’17 and Paige Caridi ’16, who each tallied multiple kills in the opening sequence. Dartmouth seemed to be in the catbird seat with a 17-12 lead, but the Bulldogs would not go quietly. After a 10-5 Yale run, the teams were tied at 22 apiece. The Big Green remained steadfast and generated four set point opportunities, but was turned away by Yale each time. Finally, two straight attack errors by Yale gave Dartmouth the opening set by a 29-27 margin.

“We knew that Yale had a bunch of big heavy swingers and so they were going to get some of their own kills. But if we could slow down as many balls as possible and we could get more balls up, it could definitely slow them down,” Caridi said.

The second set played out quite differently than the first. This time around, Yale controlled the pace of play from the outset. The Bulldogs opened up an 17-12 lead and stood just eight points from evening the match at one set apiece. The Big Green rallied back hard and quickly tied the match at 18. Two kills by Kaira Lujan ’16 helped Dartmouth close the set strong and move to the brink of victory with a two-set lead.

The third set was another tightly fought battle, but this time the Bulldogs would hold on for a set victory of their own. It was a tightly contested set throughout with neither team able to take a lead of more than two points throughout. Dartmouth held a 23-22 lead, just two points from a victory in the match when Yale stormed back. A kill by Kelly Johnson followed by an attack error by Caridi and a bad set by Kayden Cook ’16 gave Yale the third set and kept the Bulldogs’ hopes alive.

“Back in the Yale game, we were trailing by a few points here and there and everyone just looked at each other [and said] ‘Hey, we got this,’” Leonard said. “As far as team chemistry goes, it was really apparent that we all had each others’ back, and we were all in it for the team.”

Dartmouth could have collapsed under the pressure of coming so close to a victory in the match before falling in the third set. It seemed like Yale had seized the momentum as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the fourth. A kill by Allison Brady ’16 sparked a Big Green run that eventually gave Dartmouth the match. In a blowout fourth set, Dartmouth took home the victory and took down the Bulldogs for the first time in head coach Erin Lindsey’s tenure in Hanover.

“We were going to be aggressive no matter what,” Caridi said. “It’s okay to have hitting errors, that’s totally normal in volleyball. But these games especially, we didn’t let it make us less aggressive so we were able to keep swinging and hit edges hard despite any outcomes of the balls that we were putting down.”

The Big Green kept its recent conference momentum rolling over homecoming weekend, delivering a three-set loss to Brown the day after taking down Yale.

The match opened up with a back-and-forth first set that saw the score tied on 13 separate occasions. With the score at 11-11, the Bears caught fire, taking advantage of a few Big Green miscues to go on a 7-0 run for an 18-11 lead. Dartmouth immediately responded with a 6-0 run of its own to bring the deficit back to one point and prevent the Bears from running away with the opening set.

The score remained within three points for the remainder of the set and ultimately went into sudden death as Dartmouth could not separate itself from Brown. The Big Green was finally able to string together consecutive points, winning the first set 30-28 off a service ace by Stacey Benton ’17.

After squeaking out the opening set, Dartmouth continued to create separation from Brown. The Bears kept things close for the first half of the second set, but a 5-0 Dartmouth run at 16-13 proved too much for Brown to handle. The Big Green won the set 25-17 off another service ace — this one by Zoe Leonard ’19 — putting Dartmouth one set away from sweeping its two-match homestand.

The Big Green closed out its two-set lead over Brown, winning the final set 25-18. Lujan put an exclamation mark on the strong weekend for Dartmouth by rising for a kill to win the match. Caridi led the way for Dartmouth with five kills in the final set and 16 across the duration of the match.

“I am especially proud of how [Caridi] came on in the second set and really started attacking different angles and putting pressure on their defense,” Lindsey said in an after-game press conference. “We also had some great performances from the middles, including some huge kills from [Lujan].”

After finishing the 2014 Ivy League season tied for sixth place with a 4-10 record, Dartmouth now sits poised with a shot at winning the Ivy League title. The Big Green is tied for first with Harvard, but holds the tiebreaker after handing the Crimson its only conference loss of the season.

Dartmouth will return to action on this Friday against Cornell University — who sits at the bottom of the league with a win-less conference season — to start its weekend trip to New York. The next day, the Big Green will square off against the three-way tied for fifth place Columbia University.