Dec. 5, 2008

Courtesy Yale Athletics

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Yale volleyball team battled the Ohio University Bobcats for nearly two and a half hours at Penn State University on Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs and Bobcats played to a dead heat for much of the match but, when the final whistle blew, it was Yale capturing its second NCAA Tournament win in program history with a 25-19, 23-25, 25-23, 17-25 and 16-14.

With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 21-5 and advance to play No. 1 nationally-ranked Penn State on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. The 2008 squad matches the 2004 Bulldogs as the only two Ivy League teams ever to win an NCAA Tournament match. The Mid-American Conference Tournament Champion Bobcats end their season at 24-8.

"I am so proud of the way we played tonight," said Yale Head Coach Erin Appleman. "We absolutely refused to lose this match."

Junior Cat Dailey, the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year, tallied her 14th double-double of the season with 15 digs and a team-best 20 kills. Unanimous first team All-Ivy junior Alexis Crusey also notched a double-double, her 15th of the season, with 14 kills and 16 digs. Senior setter Ally Mendenhall, also a first team All-Ivy honoree, dished out 36 assists and led the Bulldogs with 18 digs. All-Ivy honorable mention libero Kelly Ozurovich was the fourth Yale player with double-figure digs at 14. Freshman Bridget Hearst flirted with a double-double of her own, recording nine kills and a career-best eight assists.

Yale never trailed in the first set, though the Bulldogs would not grab a commanding lead until a 10-5 edge forced Ohio Head Coach Ryan Theis to call his first timeout. Yale maintained the momentum coming out of the stoppage, however, and Theis soon found himself burning another timeout trailing by seven points at 19-12. The Bobcats responded to the second timeout, as they fired off a 5-2 run over the next stretch of action that forced Coach Appleman to take a timeout of her own with the Yale lead trimmed to four points at 21-17. The Bulldogs put the set away after the stoppage, expanding their lead to six points en route to a 25-19 set one victory.

The Bobcats responded early in the second frame, breaking a 4-4 tie with a 7-3 spurt to claim an 11-7 lead. Yale hung tough with Ohio throughout the set, shrinking the lead to one point on three occasions before finally pushing the score to a deadlock at 21-21. The stalemate held up to 23-23, at which point Ohio notched the next two points to knot the match at 1-1 with a 25-23 win.

The pivotal third set was much more of a back-and-forth affair, with the two teams splitting the first 20 points of the stanza to a 10-10 tie. The Bobcats broke out with a 5-2 run at that point, however, running the score to 15-12. At that point, it was Yale's turn to make a run. The Bulldogs battled to tie the score at 16-16. The deadlock stuck until a Crusey kill followed by a block from Mendenhall and junior Laurel Johnson pushed Yale to set point with a 24-22 lead. The Bobcats fought off the Bulldogs' first attempt to close out the frame, but could not squash the second, as Yale claimed the set 25-23 and took a 2-1 lead in the match.

With the 2008 season now on life support, Ohio played the fourth set like a team not ready to go home. The Bobcats jumped out to a 6-1 lead to force an Appleman timeout, and kept the pressure on up to a 17-10 advantage, at which point the Yale head coach called her second timeout of the set. All told, the Bobcats led by as many as eight points as they coasted to a 25-17 win to force a deciding fifth set.

Ohio carried its momentum into the fifth frame, as they claimed the first two points en route to holding an 8-6 lead at the intermission. The Bulldogs, however, notched the first three points out of the media timeout to claim a 9-8 lead. At that point, a 5-2 run by Ohio gave them control of the match at 13-11. With thoughts of the second NCAA Tournament win in program history slipping away, Yale rallied to win the next two points and tie the score. A kill by Ohio's Amanda Andersen gave the Bobcats a match point opportunity, by a big block by Mendenhall and Johnson knotted the score at 14-14. An attack error by the Bobcats on the ensuing point gave Yale a chance for match point, and a spectacular cross shot by Crusey gave the Bulldogs a hard-fought 16-14 win and pushed them into the second round.

Ohio outhit the Bulldogs .251 (69-25-175) to .156 (55-27-180), outdug them 76-74 and outblocked them 11-10. But 20 service errors by the Bobcats, compared to just five by their opponents, kept the Bulldogs in the match. Ellen Herman, the MAC Player of Year, led all players with a career-high 32 kills. She added 13 digs to complete a double-double.

Yale will face Penn State, who swept Long Island 25-14, 25-15, 25-15, tomorrow at 4 p.m. The winner advances to the NCAA Regional held at University Park, Pa. on December 12-13.