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ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Friday, November 25, 2011

Yale volleyball team awaits NCAA foe

By Bill Cloutier
Assistant Sports Editor
bcloutier@nhregister.com
Sunday night is the reward for the Yale volleyball team.
After battling through a rugged Ivy League schedule and winning the league title for the fourth time in eight years, the Bulldogs get a chance to sit down and watch TV.
No practice. No running. No endless diving on the floor digging balls.
The Bulldogs will watch NCAA volleyball selection show on ESPNU (6 p.m.) knowing that there name will be called among the field of 64.
“It’s really exciting. Everyone’s like,’ Shhhh. I want to hear,” Yale coach Erin Appleman said. “It’s not like were on the bubble. We know they’re going to call our name. Then it’s usually crazy.”
And followed by a lot of noise.
Yale (18-6, 12-2 Ivy) made plenty of noise during the season. Led by setter Kendall Polan, a sophomore who was named the league’s Player of the Year, Yale won seven straight games down the stretch to wrap up the title before the final match of the season getting huge contributions from freshmen Allie Frappier (238 kills), Mollie Rodgers (267 kills) and Maddie Rudnick (375 digs).
The championship came a year after Yale lost to Penn in a heart-breaking one-game playoff last season to determine the conference’s NCAA representative.
The 2011 title is Appleman’s fourth Ivy League crown in her nine years at the school. Appleman has gone to three NCAA tournaments compiling a 2-2 record with wins over Albany and Ohio. The win over Albany came at New Haven but the Bulldogs won’t have a chance to host this year’s tournament as the NCAA changed its format for selecting host sites giving the top 16 overall teams in the tournament the right to host the tournament regardless of the region that they come from.
All 16 venues will host four teams and Appleman said that because of geographical considerations she thinks there is a 60 percent chance the Bulldogs will play at Penn State and 40 percent chance they’ll be shipped somewhere else in the country.
Said Appleman: “The first night you have a good chance of winning and the second night you go out there and swing for the fences.”
Yale is still a bit handcuffed in its effort to compete with the nation’s powers because it doesn’t offer scholarships and Appelman said that most of the best players in the country commit to schools as early as sophomores when Yale can’t even being to talk to potential recruits.
But that hasn’t stopped her from bringing in talent from all over the country including the volleyball-affluent state of California. The Bulldogs feature eight players from Calif. And they’re so young they should be an NCAA player for years to come.
“Volleyball is just a part of the culture in California,” Yale senior captain Taylor Cramm said. “You go to the beach and you see girls walking along with their volleyballs and there’s always games going on.”
Appleman said that this year’s team certainly has the potential to be the best she’s ever fielded. She feels that her teams in 2008 which beat a top 25 Ohio team in the NCAA first round and 2009 which failed to make the tournament had superstars like Alexis Crusey and Cat Dailey.
“This year’s team is so balanced,” Appleman said. “(Polan) is just a great player. She’s the glue who keeps us together basically because of the position she plays but everyone has taken over the leadership role on the floor at some time. It’s been a different player all the time.”
Appleman and Cramm were proud of how the youngsters didn’t cave under the pressure.
“We start three freshmen and three sophomores,” Appleman said. “What I’m very proud of is how well they handled things during the season. They didn’t get distracted. They followed the game plans and they managed the stress of the long season.”
Said Cramm: “The chemistry on our team has been the biggest key. We love being together. We have so much fun playing together and from the first day everyone always wanted to work and were excited to be together.”
If Yale does get sent to Penn State for the first and second rounds, Appleman feels that Yale could meet conference winners Albany, Sacred Heart, Niagara, Delaware or Maryland Eastern-Shore in the opener. She believes Yale could get seeded third in that region.
And with a win they’re virtually guaranteed to play one of the nation’s elite squads.
“I’m 6-1 so I don’t usually look up to anyone but those teams obviously have a physical advantage,” Cramm said. “They’re all so tall and athletic. At first it’s a little intimidating because these are the girls that you watch on TV and you hear all about. They’re the girls trying out for the national team.
“But when it starts you just play your game.”
Cramm was part of the Yale’s last tournament that was also sent to Penn State. She’d love to get the opportunity to travel somewhere else for the her finale.
“I’d love to go to the Midwest or even California,” she said. “But where ever we go it’s going to be great. This is the best possible way to end my career. Emotionally it’s going to be pretty rough. I’ve been playing volleyball for 10 years so it’s really going to be tough to think about this being my last match but it’s the best way to go out.”
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