Ready to leave behind last season’s disappointing fourth-place Ivy League finish and distractions from the athletic department’s investigation of former head coach Peg Scofield, the volleyball team gave new head coach Erin Appleman a warm welcome this week.

The athletics department reassigned Scofield to administrative duties last spring after complaints by team members prompted a yearlong investigation of the program. In July, athletics director Tom Beckett named Appleman the new head coach.

“Peg [Scofield] has a very good program here, and I’m honored to build what she has started,” Appleman said.

Appleman comes to Yale after serving for eight years as the assistant coach of Penn State’s volleyball program. During those eight seasons, the Nittany Lions made the NCAA Final Four five times in 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, and 1999.

“The experience I had at Penn State helped me gain a good grasp of what’s important in the volleyball world,” Appleman said. “[At Penn State], we competed for a national championship every year, and at Yale, we are going to compete for an Ivy League championship — with the same principles and drills to win.”

Appleman, a California native, was team captain at San Diego State. She also served as assistant coach for both California State-Northridge and the University of San Diego.

Although Appleman faces the challenge of replacing one of Yale’s winningest coaches — Scofield achieved her 300th victory in her 17th college coaching season last year with the Bulldogs — she is fortunate to receive a strong core of returning players eager to turn things around.

“[Coming] in with a new coach — was a big help to get people to work harder,” said middle blocker Renee Lopes ’06. “There is a new type of excitement on the team.”

One of five returning sophomores from last year, Lopes said that with few major losses to graduation and a strong recruiting class, the team should improve on last season’s 13-12 (7-7 Ivy) record. “Our freshmen are great competitive players; there are no real holes [in the lineup].”

Jacqueline Becker ’06, last year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year, is a key returning player for the team, especially with the loss of Alison Lungstrum ’04 from the lineup. Lungstrum’s 934 assists in 2001 was the seventh-most in Yale history, a mark Becker passed in 2002 with 962 assists.

“Jacqueline Becker has proven she’s a good setter,” Appleman said.

While the Elis are returning with plenty of talented players, Appleman has emphasized teamwork as a means of improving this year. “Having a steady group of players who know what their roles are is critical for a team sport,” she said.

Team members say three practices a day furnished a tough preseason, but Appleman lauded the team’s ability.

“They’ve worked hard in the gym,” she said. “I’ve been blessed with being given such a good young team. Our expectations are pretty high — Everyone is competing hard for a starting position.”

The team will play its first matches under Appleman September 12 and 13 at the Army Tournament.