by David F. P. [Modest Image Gallery]
NEW HAVEN, CT- The Yale Bulldogs hosted the Aggies of Texas A&M on Friday night as part of the Yale classic tournament. Despite a determined effort by Coach Erin Appleman’s home team, Coach Laurie Corbelli’s visitors were able to pick up the win in four sets including a marathon second set to take the match 3 to 1.
In set 1 which TAMU would take with a 25 to 20 win, Yale pulled out to a 4-2 lead thanks in part to a light tap attack from Kelly Johnson and a spike to the back corner by McHaney Carter. A&M however responded with a kill from Tori Mellinger and she would actually add several more kills amidst a run to put her team up 8 to 5. Yale pulled back within 1 to make it 9 to 8 but A&M closed the door after that drawing out to a lead that Yale could only give chase too. TAMU’s Megan Pendergast kept the decisive scoring run going with two aces. Stephanie Minnerly also had several points during their move towards the set win of various types. Mellinger added a hard kill and her teammate Alisia Kastmo also hammered the ball down from the net. Allie Sawatzky came up with a block late in the set and Mellinger ended the first frame with a kill that flew off a Bulldog’s fingertips. Yale offense late in the set came from a variety of sources during their pursuit including from Haley Wessels, Karlee Fuller, Kendall Polan. Carter and Jesse Ebner also had a block for Yale’s last points.
Set 2 was a monster of a set as the teams would go beyond 25 points in a hard fought melee. Yale gave A&M a scare, and provoked a time out by getting out an 11 to 8 lead. Blocks from Wessels, Fuller, and Polan, a kill from Carter, and several kills from Polan helped make this happen. Amidst this Christine Wu and Mollie Rogers kept a scoring sequence alive through some good hustle and defense to set up a return though A&M did take that point. After the time out though A&M’s Minnerly added to her scoring totals by walloping the ball off the defenders and out of play. Mellinger stepped back to serve an ace was her reward. Carter responded for Yale, but Heather Reynolds spiked the ball into the Yale back gap, and Kastmo and Lindsey Miller came up with a tandem block to tie the set at 12.
Yale would embark on another scoring drive getting up to a 19-14 lead including a kill from Johnson who shared a block with Carter later in the run. Another A&M time out was called, and TAMU responded with a block from a Sawatzky and Miller and three more points after that to pull within 1. Minnerly’s block kept pace with a Yale point, but Yale tried again to pull away with a kill from Polan ricocheting off a blocker and out of bounds, and she struck again sending a ball hard off a defender at the scorer’s table. The 23 to 20 advantage was slashed though as Kastmo’s cross court smash and another kill from her right after cut the lead to 1, and Reynolds came up with a block to tie it. Yale regained the lead briefly, but Kastmo had another kill. With each side at 24-24, a victory at 25 points was at possible and so each team would have to pick up two straight points to win by the necessary margin.
Rogers struck first for Yale, but Miller received a set and dropped the hammer on an attack. She and Mellinger shared a block to give A&M the lead, but a blast from Wessels tied it back up. Mellinger responded, but an attack out of bounds on the next point tied it again. Mellinger struck yet again with a massive kill that end up sailing into the crowd. Polan sent an attack into a gap though, but Kastmo stepped up for A&M after that. A Yale point would follow and it was 29-29.
The Bulldogs benefited from an A&M attack out of play, but committed their own error to keep the set tied. A&M took a lead off a kill, but sent the ball into an antenna to follow. They would pick up yet another point, but Wessels used a tap to tie it at 32. A Yale attack error was matched by a Fuller light attack off the blockers. TAMU’s Mellinger however regained the lead with a kill and Sawatzky took the set with her put down for the 35-33 set win.
A&M was up 2 to 0 at the customary intermission period. Yale wasn’t going anywhere though as the Bulldogs pulled out a 16 to 10 lead forcing A&M into pursuit mode. Rogers picked up two kills to start the set, Polan would add another kill, thoughh Rogers would pick up two more points soonafterward of varying types, Polan hurricaned an attack off the block attempt as well a few points later, though Yale also benefited from some A&M attack miscues including an overpass that Johnson sent back to them with great speed. Carter added a kill and Polan sent a desperate punch at the ball landing right in a gap for an unexpected point. For A&M Reynolds, Miller, and Minnerly were among those with kills and Sawatzky added an ace.
The two teams would find themselves in a close set however as the Aggies pulled back up and tied the set at 21. Kastmo began the comeback with a spike that snagged a Yale player’s hand as it flew. A&M had three points before Johnson stopped the run, only to have Miller take a set and blast it hard over the net. Rogers and Ebner struck back hard for Yale with kills and then both shared a block to extend the lead, but A&M picked up five straight points including on Bulldog errors. Minnerly smashed the ball into a gap to cut the lead to 1 and a Yale error that followed tied it at 21-21.
The Bulldogs did hold on however as they only allowed A&M to score one more point before adding four of their own, and Johnson had the last kill of the set to take the 25-22 set win.
Yale was still down a set however and to stay alive they needed to win set 4. The Aggies had other ideas as they took took a 16 to 3 lead over the home team. This include a huge kill from Mellinger, a tandem block from Minnerly and Kastmo, another kill from Kastmo, one from Reynolds, an ace from Kelsey Kinley, three straight kills from Kastmo to wrap up most of the scoring.
Yale however was not done. Wessels picked up two kills, three A&M attack errors dropped the lead to only 16-8. Yale kept coming. On an ensuing point, Minnerly had a great save reaching into the far reaches of out of bounds to keep a ball in play, but a dispute over where the ball eventually ended up afterward led to a replay of the point. Yale kept fighting though so did A&M as Shelby Sullivan, Kastmo, and Minnerly all added points in response to Fuller and Johnson’s scoring. A&M did eventually close the door however, though Yale kept pace for a more respectable 25-18 score.
Statistically, Sawatzky led her team with 30 assists, and Mariah Agre had 13. Reynolds and Kelsey Kinley each had 20 digs for A&M. Miller led the team by participating in 5 blocks. Minnerly led the top scorers with a .5 hitting percentage. Mellinger’s 16.5 points led the Aggies, Minnerly had 13.5 and Kastmo 11.5.
For Yale, Johnson had 21 assists and Polan 18. Maddie Rudnick and Rogers each had 17 digs, Johnson was right behind them with 16. Johnson participated in 4 blocks to lead the team. Carter’s .385 hit percentage and Polan’s .350 were the top percentages for Yale. Polan’s 17 points led her team. Johnson was second with 11.5. (statistics source: Yale Athletics).