For the past four years, coming to New Haven to take on the Yale volleyball team has been a daunting task for squads across the country. The Bulldogs have gone 41–4 in the John J. Lee Amphitheater over that span en route to three Ivy titles and two NCAA tournament berths. The team will try to get this year’s home schedule off to another hot start this weekend when it plays its first matches of the season against Texas A&M, Stony Brook and American University as part of the Yale Classic.
“We get a lot of fans at our games,” middle blocker captain Haley Wessels ’13 said about the Bulldogs’ home court advantage. “We practice well in our gym, so we are really comfortable there. That shows during our home matches.”
As in past years, the first few weeks of Yale’s schedule will be played against nonconference opponents, with the Ivy League slate of games scheduled to begin on Sept. 22. Head coach Erin Appleman called this year’s the toughest nonconference slate she has ever scheduled, and said she expects her team to be tested.
“This weekend and next weekend, there are really good teams coming in,” she said. “All five teams over the next two weeks are going to challenge us in many different ways.”
Two of this weekend’s opponents participated in the NCAA tournament last season. Texas A&M (2–1) earned an at-large bid after posting a 23–8 record during the regular season. After winning their first-round game against Lipscomb, the Aggies fell 3–0 to Kentucky in the second round.
American (1–1) also went to the NCAAs after it received an automatic bid with a 3–1 victory over Army in the Patriot League championship match. It went on to fall 3–1 in the first round to Delaware, a team that Yale had defeated earlier in the season.
All three of this weekend’s opponents will be taller, more physical and more athletic than the Bulldogs, Appleman said. Perhaps the most daunting player on the court this weekend will be American’s Kelly McCaddin, who stands six-foot-six and is leading the Eagles in kills per set.
While it is too early in the season to expect the team to be in top form, Appleman said there are a few things in particular that she hopes the team does well.
“I want to be able to control Texas A&M’s serve,” she said. “They’re averaging almost two aces per game, so I want to concentrate on our passing and getting everyone in a comfortable rhythm playing with each other.”
All of this weekend’s opponents have had a better opportunity to build team chemistry than Yale. The Bulldogs have only been practicing two weeks and have yet to play a match. On the other hand, Texas A&M, Stony Brook (1-2) and American have been practicing for about a month and have all played meaningful matches. Under similar conditions during last year’s nonconference schedule, the Elis played to a 6–4 record.
The action tips off on Friday night at 7 p.m. against Texas A&M.