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Defense Leads Yale Past Columbia

Maddie Rudnick. (photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)
Maddie Rudnick. (photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)

Four Bulldogs Post at Least 14 Digs

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Maddie Rudnick saw the ball come off the hitter's hand and positioned herself perfectly for a dig.  Moments later, on the same point, Rudnick dug another ball to teammate Kendall Polan, who set up Kelly Johnson for a kill to give Yale a commanding 14-7 lead in the first. 

Rudnick's play symbolized Yale's defensive effort and the Bulldogs swept Columbia on the road to win their fourth straight match.  The scores of the match were 25-14, 25-22 and 25-23. 

The Bulldogs (7-5, 3-0 Ivy) came up with 16 more digs than the Lions and held Columbia to a .154 hitting percentage. Polan produced a match-high 21 digs and was one of four Bulldogs to put up at least 14 in the match.

"Our defense played fantastic," Yale head coach Erin Appleman said.  "We kept our focus and really played hard today."

A night after winning at Cornell, Yale kept its momentum in the first game at Columbia. 

Johnson snapped a 6-all tie in the first with a kill -- the first of nine points in a row for the Bulldogs. Yale would eventually stretch its lead to ten, 19-9, after a Polan kill.

Yale also spread the wealth on offense.  The Bulldogs held a 48-33 advantage in kills without one of their hitters contributing more than nine in the match.

Haley Wessels led the Bulldogs with nine kills and hit .364 for the match.  She had five kills in eight swings and hit .625 in the first set victory.

Erica Reetz (8 kills and 15 digs) gave Yale an 11-8 lead in the second before Columbia went on its own run.  Caitlin Brenton capped an 8-2 run with a kill to give the Lions a 16-13 edge.

Mollie Rogers and Jesse Ebner brought the Bulldogs back. Rogers stopped the Lions' spurt with a kill on the next point.

Still down two at 20-18, Ebner used a well-positioned tip to the back row to cut the deficit to one.  Ebner finished with eight kills including four in the second set and hit a match-best .368.

A Columbia error tied the set, and on the next rally, Polan and Ebner combined on block assists to give Yale the lead at 21-20.  Ebner had three block assists for the match.

Brenton tied the set at 21 before Ebner responded with a blast down the right side to give the lead back to Yale.  Rogers followed with another kill on the next point to force a Columbia timeout and push Yale's lead to 23-21.

The Lions (7-5, 2-1) mounted one last comeback and took the next point before Ebner and Rogers closed out the set with back-to-back kills.

Columbia scored back-to-back points to tie the third set at 17.  After a service error, Rudnick (17 digs) started another another eventual point with a pass to Johnson who set up Reetz for one of her match-high 25 assists.

The Bulldogs never surrendered the lead and Reetz eventually closed out the match.

Yale continues its five-match road swing to begin the Ivy season with another trip next weekend.  The Bulldogs play at Dartmouth on Friday and travel to Harvard on Saturday.

Report filed by Ernie Bertothy, Yale Sports Publicity