VOLLEYBALL: Bulldogs dominate in winning weekend at Syracuse

Yale’s volleyball team went 3-0 – including two sweeps – at the Syracuse tournament last weekend.

Wei-Ting Shih

10:26 p.m., September 11, 2022

Staff reporter


Courtesy of Yale Athletics

Last weekend, the Yale volleyball team (5-1, 0-0 Ivy) continued their winning streak with a spectacular performance at the Syracuse tournament. The Bulldogs won the event after defeating all three of their opponents, including the hosts.

On Friday, September 9, the Elis opened the tournament with a five-set match against Army (4–6, 0–0 Patriot), which Yale won 3–2. Just hours later, the Bulldogs picked up another impressive win, this time a 3-0 sweep over tournament host Syracuse (4-5, 0-0 ACC). On Saturday, Yale wrapped up a winning weekend by taking out the brooms again against Hofstra (3–8, 0–0 CAA), sweeping Pride 3–0. Coupled with a 2-1 record at the Seminole Invitational the previous week, the Elis look solid in non-conference play.

“I’m really, really proud of what our team did last weekend in Syracuse,” said ’23 captain and setter Renee Shultz. “In the face of different challenges and adversity, we really stayed focused and grounded, ultimately playing good volleyball. It’s not easy to be on the road and to travel for a long time. When it came to that, we faced great competition. [Last week] we’ve been able to do some really amazing things… It makes me proud of the team and where we’re at, as well as really excited to see how we continue to improve as the season progresses.

The Bulldogs kicked off the tournament with a hard-earned win over Army. The last time the two teams met was in 2019, when the Elis swept the Black Knights in New Haven. This meeting, Army was looking to prove himself.

Les Bleu et Blanc got off to a good start by winning the first set 25-20. However, the Black Knights fought back and earned their own 25-20 victory in the second period. A back and forth battle ensued between the two teams, as Yale won the third set and Army won the fourth. However, the Bulldogs managed to win the game with a strong fifth frame, which they won 15-11 batting .368.

Although the army’s defense was strong, with the Black Knights having more blocks than the Elis, Yale was able to outplay their opponent offensively. The Bulldogs had more wins and topped the service line with 11 aces.

“This year, we all kind of have the mindset that everyone is here to contribute,” outside striker Audrey Leak ’24 said of the team’s recent attacking success. “We are here to work together and cooperate. Lots of different girls can come in and hit. We all have this mindset that we’re here to dominate and we can change the game.”

Only hours after its tough victory against Army, Yale faced another formidable adversary: ​​Syracuse. Both teams have a checkered history. Before last Friday, the Elis had never won a match against Orange. The most recent game between the two teams was at the 2021 Yale Invitational, where Syracuse swept the Bulldogs. In 2018, the Orange also broke the Bulldogs’ perfect record in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Going into last weekend’s game, Yale looked to change the narrative. The Bulldogs got off to a good start, winning the first set hitting .286 and limiting the opponent to a .154 save percentage. In the following frames, Orange tried to throw returns and reduced the point margins between the two teams. However, the hosts ultimately failed against Eli’s gentle attack. Yale swept Syracuse 25–18, 25–23 and 25–22.

Renee Shultz, who is one of the few on the team to have suffered Yale’s two past losses to Syracuse, emphasized the importance of the moment. She already considered the win “one of the highlights of the season”.

“We’ve come full circle since the 2018 NCAA playoff games and [the match in 2021]”, said the captain. “I couldn’t be more proud to see how this program has progressed. To earn not only a victory, but also a sweep against an ACC team, that’s pretty awesome. After a battle in five sets with Army, it was exhausting… It was a very quick turnaround [to then face Syracuse] … We are really [dug] deep to find the energy and intensity we needed to play hard. I think the energy in the gym also became a big factor in the way we played… In the end, it worked in our favour.

The Bulldogs wrapped up a winning weekend with another sweep over Hofstra 25–22, 25–15 and 25–22. The Elis were a net threat and limited their opponents to a mere .072 hit percentage. Greater dominance on the service line, culminating in eight aces, also helped propel the Blue and Whites to victory.

Setter Carly Diehl ’25 and Leak were named to the All-Tournament Team after strong individual performances. Diehl had also been named to the all-tournament team in the Bulldogs’ first tournament of the season, the Seminole Volleyball Invitational. Outside forward Cara Shultz ’25 was named tournament MVP. She hit .257 last weekend, with 10 aces, 34 kills and 41 digs.

“It feels really good and I’m grateful for that,” Cara Shultz said of the recognition. “But at the end of the day, it’s not really about [individual awards]. Anyone on our team could have gotten that award. I am very grateful that whoever made this decision gave it to me, but there are so many girls in our team who should have deserved it too. Last weekend was a team effort through and through.

The Blue and Whites will now look to bring their momentum back with them to New Haven, as they prepare to host the Yale Invitational. This will be the Bulldogs’ first opportunity of the season to play at home. Yale will face Villanova, Fordham and Sacred Heart.

After the tournament, the team will also open the Ivy League season with three straight weekends on the road. The Yale Invitational will serve as a welcome reprieve from back-to-back away games this season.

“I’m thrilled to be back in front of our fans,” Leak said of the week ahead. “We haven’t had a chance to play at home yet. I really missed the feeling of being back at Payne Whitney and playing in front of my friends. I think my parents are also coming this weekend. I’m just thrilled to be home and in our own backyard.

The Bulldogs currently have a .233 hit percentage and average 13.43 kills per set.

WEI-TING SHIH


Wei-Ting Shih covers baseball, volleyball and women’s basketball as a reporter. Originally from Taiwan and Nicaragua, she is a sophomore at Grace Hopper College majoring in ethics, politics and economics and history.