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Harvard, Dartmouth on Tap for Bulldogs This Weekend

Harvard, Dartmouth on Tap for Bulldogs This Weekend

Oct. 30, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A little more than halfway through the 14-match Ivy League slate, the Yale volleyball team sits atop the Ancient Eight standings at 7-1 (13-4 overall). The Bulldogs, however, are far from comfortable in their current position, as they will play four of their final six league contests away from the John J. Lee Amphitheater. With Princeton tied in the loss column with Yale at 6-1 and Cornell hanging tough at 6-2 in league matches, perennial rival Harvard and the always-tough Dartmouth Big Green will host the Bulldogs this coming weekend.

Yale Head Coach Erin Appleman enters the weekend with 99 career wins. Appleman, who took the helm before the 2003 season, trails only Coach Peggy Scofield in career wins as head volleyball coach. Scofield won 307 matches with the Bulldogs from 1986-2002.

Yale is riding a two-match winning streak after sweeping past Cornell and Columbia in a pair of Ivy League road matches this past weekend. Overall, the Bulldogs have won nine of their last 10 contests, with an Oct. 18 five-set loss to Penn as the only blemish on Yale's record over that span.

The Yale offensive attack currently ranks second in the Ivy League in kills, assists and hitting percentage trailing only Princeton in all three categories. Junior Alexis Crusey has been the offensive leader for the Bulldogs, ranking second in the Ancient Eight with a team-best 3.86 kills per set. Crusey is also seventh in the league in hitting percentage at .266, despite racking up at least 173 more swings than every other player in the top ten.

Junior Laurel Johnson and freshman Taylor Cramm join Crusey in the top ten in hitting percentage at .276 and .254 respectively. The Bulldogs are the only team with three players in the top ten in hitting. Junior Cat Dailey has been a force in her first season with the Bulldogs. Dailey is second on the team and fourth in the Ivy League in kills with 3.43 per set. She is also ninth in the Ancient Eight and first on the Bulldogs with 0.28 service aces per set.

The Yale offense is run by senior Ally Mendenhall. The setter and captain of the Bulldogs ranks third in the Ivy League in assists with 10.41 per set. Mendenhall, who is third all-time in assists for Yale, has also contributed 14 service aces and an opportunistic mark of 46 kills with a .302 hitting percentage.

The Bulldogs' offense has had plenty of opportunities thanks to a defense that has been the best in the Ivy League in 2008. Yale is strong in all facets of the defensive game, sitting at the top of the heap in digs, blocks and opponent hitting percentage. Sophomore libero Kelly Ozurovich, a second team All-Ivy selection in 2007, is third in the league and first on the Bulldogs with 4.33 digs per set. Crusey, Dailey and Mendenhall all contribute to the defensive effort with at least 2.71 digs per set each.

At the net, Cramm has been the driving force for the Bulldogs. The freshman has notched 43 blocks in 44 sets of work, slotting her third in the Ivy League. Dailey and Johnson have each added 30 blocks, and Crusey leads the team in solo blocks with 12. In total, seven players have notched 17 blocks or better in the 2008 campaign.

The Crimson (8-12, 3-5 Ivy) will host Yale on Friday night, Oct. 31. The Bulldogs knocked off Harvard in a five-set thriller in the Elm City on Oct. 11. After Yale jumped out to a 2-0 lead in that match, the Crimson battled back to force a fifth and deciding set. After Harvard built a commanding 10-6 lead, the Bulldogs caught fire and used a 7-0 run to propel them to a 15-11 advantage in the set and a 3-2 victory in the match.

Dailey led the way for the Bulldogs in the Oct. 11 tilt with a team-best 23 kills. She added 15 digs in the match to post her second straight double-double. Crusey and Mendenhall each notched double-doubles as well. Crusey, who recorded her fifth straight double-double overall, had 13 kills and 11 digs. Mendenhall notched a pair of team highs with 47 assists and 17 digs. Junior Julia Mailander and Ozurovich each tallied double-figure digs with 15 and 12 respectively. Kathryn McKinley had 26 kills and hit a scorching .511 for Harvard in the match. Lily Durwood distributed a match-best 56 assists and libero Katherine Kocurek led all players with 24 digs.

The Harvard offense boasts a quartet of strong attackers. Kathryn McKinley leads the charge with 3.25 kills per set, slotting her sixth in the Ivy League. Anne Carroll Ingersoll, the Ivy League Rookie of the Week in four of seven weeks this season, has contributed 2.70 kills per set. Ingersoll rates third in the Ivy League with a hitting percentage of .370. Mikaelle Comrie has added 2.27 kills per set and Sandra Lynne Fryhofer is posting 2.05 kills per set with a hitting percentage of .293, the fifth-highest mark in the Ancient Eight. The Crimson offense is run through Lily Durwood. The setter's 10.57 assists per set slot her second in the league.

Defensively, Harvard slots two players in the top ten in the Ivy League in digs: Katherine Kocurek with 3.97 digs per set and Christine Wu with 3.26 digs per set. Ingersoll has been a strong contributor at the net with 1.04 blocks per set, the second-highest average in the league.

Yale leads the all-time series with Harvard by a 29-13 margin. The Bulldogs are 10-2 in the series under Head Coach Erin Appleman, and have won the last nine meetings with the Cantabs, including a three-match winning streak in Cambridge.

After the Halloween tilt with the Crimson, Yale will travel to Hanover, N.H., where the Dartmouth Big Green awaits the Bulldogs. Dartmouth, who will host Brown on Friday, enter the weekend at 6-12 overall and 2-6 in Ivy League matches. Though Yale swept Big Green in New Haven on Oct. 10, the teams played a very evenly-contested match. The team each committed 26 total errors, and Dartmouth outblocked the Bulldogs by a mark of 7-3.

Crusey posted 13 kills and 14 digs to post double-double, while Dailey notched a twofer consisting of 16 kills and 13 digs in that meeting. Mendenhall notched a match-best 36 assists and shared the match high in digs with Ozurovich at 15 each. Morgan Covington and Madeline Baird each notched 10 kills to lead Big Green in the contest. Kendall Houston distributed 26 assists for Dartmouth, and Amber Bryant tallied 12 digs.

Big Green is led offensively by Madeline Baird, the ninth-most prolific attacker in the Ivy League with 3.05 kills per set. Megan MacGregor is the only other Dartmouth player averaging over two kills per set with a 2.78 mark. Kendall Houston and Natalia Wrobel have both seen time as the primary setter, averaging 8.09 and 7.44 assists per set respectively, though Houston has been the primary setter for Big Green as of late.

The Dartmouth defense is led by 4.19 digs per set, the fifth-highest total in the Ivy League, from Amber Bryant. Morgan Covington and Kelsey Johnson have posted 49 and 38 blocks respectively, ranking them fourth and 10th in the league.

The Bulldogs have bested Dartmouth in 29 of 36 meetings all-time. Coach Appleman is 9-2 against Big Green in her Yale career. The Bulldogs are riding a two-match winning streak over Dartmouth, though Big Green won the last meeting to be held at the Berry Sports Center (Oct. 5, 2007).

Looking ahead, Yale will return home for one final weekend at the John J. Lee Amphitheater in the 2008 regular season with a pair of matches with Columbia or Cornell. The Lions will challenge the Bulldogs on Friday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. Big Red comes to Elm City on Saturday, Nov. 8 for Senior Day. First serve is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Yale Volleyball Statistics
Yale Volleyball Schedule

Harvard Volleyball Statistics
Harvard Volleyball Schedule (contains links to Live Stats)

Dartmouth Volleyball Statistics
Dartmouth Volleyball Schedule (contains links to Live Stats)

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity