Penn Outlasts Bulldogs in Five-Set Thriller

Cat Dailey. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Cat Dailey. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — It has become a tradition when the Yale and Penn volleyball teams collide for the match to come down to a deciding fifth set. After the Bulldogs and Quakers split a pair of five-set nailbiters in 2008, Penn returned to the John J. Lee Amphitheater on Saturday afternoon for another classic encounter. Despite Yale breaking two match-point opportunities in a fourth-set rally that forced the deciding fifth set, it was the Quakers who came out on top by set scores of 25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 25-27 and 15-13. The five-set match featured 25 ties and 11 lead changes.

The loss snaps an eight-match winning streak for the Bulldogs, who now sit at 12-2 overall and 2-1 in Ivy League play. Yale had also won 10 consecutive Ivy League matches and 10 straight home matches, a streak dating back to last year’s defeat at the hands of Penn on Oct. 18. The Bulldogs have not lost an Ivy League contest in fewer than five sets since a Nov. 10, 2007 loss to Princeton, a team that went undefeated in league play in that season. Penn improves to 12-4 with the win and stays perfect in the Ancient Eight at 3-0.

“Penn is an excellent team,” said Yale Head Coach Erin Appleman. “They played at a very high level throughout the match today, and we were inconsistent in our execution.”

The Bulldogs hit .185 (64-27-200) in the match, while Penn swung at a .211 (69-29-190) clip. Yale had held opponents under a .200 hitting percentage in eight straight matches prior to today. The Bulldogs outblocked the Quakers, 13-11, and landed nine service aces to Penn’s four.

Yale senior Cat Dailey led all players with 26 kills in the contest. She also tallied 16 digs to record her sixth double-double of the season. Dailey was one of five Bulldogs with double-figure digs, led by junior libero Kelly Ozurovich with 17. Senior Alexis Crusey had 13 digs in the match, while sophomore Laurel Casey and freshman Kerry Clavadetscher each notched 11 digs.

Sophomore Bridget Hearst matched her career-best with 11 kills for the Bulldogs while senior Laurel Johnson chipped in 10 finishers and match-high six blocks. Crusey had nine kills, freshman Haley Wessels had three kills and Clavadetscher added two. Ozurovich, senior captain Julia Mailander and sophomore Taylor Cramm rounded out the Yale attack with one kill apiece. Clavadetscher ran the offense with 48 assists out of the setter slot to rack up her second career double-double.

Penn was led by 21 kills from Lauren Martin. Julia Swanson (17 kills, 17 digs) and Elizabeth Semmens (11 kills, 12 digs) both posted double-doubles for the Quakers. Megan Tryon doled out a match-high 60 assists, and libero Madison Wojciechowski led all players with 31 digs.

The Quakers grabbed the first three points of set one, but Yale rallied to knot the score at 5-5. Penn responded with consecutive points on kills by Martin and Semmens, and the Bulldogs would not break even for the remainder of the set. The Quakers never scored more than three straight points in the frame, but the tough Penn defense held Yale without a long run as well en route to grabbing a seven-point lead, Penn’s largest of the set, at 23-16. At that point, the Bulldogs finally broke through with a five-point spurt to bring the score to 23-21, but a Martin kill promptly ended the rally and brought the stanza to set point. Yale stifled a pair of Quakers’ set-point chances but could not muster a third as the visitors claimed set one, 25-23.

In set two, it was Yale that jumped out to an early lead, notching four of the first five points. Penn would climb back to within one point on four occasions, including at 15-14 to induce an Appleman timeout. The Bulldogs put the set away after the stoppage, rattling off six of the next eight points to build a five-point cushion at 21-16 and force Penn to use a timeout. The two teams traded points after the timeout, which was enough for Yale to maintain its lead and take set two, 25-19, to tie the match a 1-1.

After the third frame began with a 2-2 deadlock, the Bulldogs and Quakers traded their back-and-forth battling for a war of multiple-point spurts. Penn put together the final run to that stretch of action, a four-point rally to establish a 9-5 advantage. The Quakers built a five-point lead at 12-7 to force Yale to take its first timeout, and the then grew to six at 17-11 to induce the Bulldogs’ second and final timeout. Penn would amass a lead of eight points at 20-12, at which point Yale began to fire back. Led by two Dailey kills, and aided by a trio of Penn errors, the Bulldogs put together an 8-1 run to come to within one point at 21-20. After a timeout, the visitors quelled Yale’s momentum and put the set away with four of the final points to take the frame, 25-21 and go up 2-1 in the match.

An early five-point run in set four gave the Quakers a quick 8-5 edge before Yale responded immediately with a five-point spurt of its own to claim an 11-8 edge. Penn would edge the Bulldogs in the next stretch of action to force a 15-15 stalemate, but Yale kept the Quakers from taking a lead to another tie at 19-19. A kill by Martin gave Penn its first lead of the set at 20-19, but Crusey responded with a kill of her own to tie the score again at 20-20. The teams would trade points to a 23-23 lead, at which point Martin slammed another kill to put Penn at match-point leading 24-23. A Dailey kill squashed the first match-point opportunity and, after a Quakers’ point, another kill by the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year broke another match-point chance and tied the score, 25-25. A Martin error gave Yale its first set-point try, and the Bulldogs were able to cash in with a Crusey kill to take the set, 27-25, and force a deciding game five.

As was the theme of the match, set five was another back-and-forth affair. The score would be tied on four occasions in the early stages of the frame, with both teams holding leads at different times. The Quakers broke a 7-7 deadlock with three straight points, and Yale answered with three points of its own to tie the score for the fifth time at 10-10. The squads dueled to another stalemate at 12-12, when a Swanson kill and Penn block gave its third match-point chance of the afternoon, leading 14-12. Dailey came through for the Bulldogs with a kill to break the Quakers’ serve and keep Yale alive, but on the next point, Tryon, the Penn setter, slipped a ball past the Yale block to give the visitors the match with a 15-13 set-five win.

The Bulldogs will look to bounce back next weekend, as they hit the road for the first time in the Ivy League season. Yale will challenge Cornell at 7 p.m. on Friday evening before heading to Columbia for a 5 p.m. contest with the Lions. Both matches are slated to feature live stats courtesy of the home teams. Live updates will also be provided at

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity