Yale volleyball never expected that its chance for a winning record would come down to the last game of the season. After disappointing match play against Ivy League opponents and disruptions from an athletics department investigation of 17-year head coach Peg Scofield, the 2002 Bulldogs found themselves competing for an above-.500 record instead of the Ivy League championship.

This weekend, the 2003 Bulldogs will try to rid themselves of last year’s bad memories when they open the season at the Army Tournament in West Point, N.Y.

The Bulldogs’ matches Friday against Sacred Heart and Saturday against Army and Marist will be new head coach Erin Appleman’s first with the Elis.

“It’s a good test for both myself and the team to get a sense of how we go about match play,” Appleman said. “We will be playing a lot of people and seeing if they can rise to the occasion.”

Appleman added that she does not see the tournament as a warm-up and considers it as important as any other competition.

Returning 10 players with what several team members called a new “excitement” to compete, the Bulldogs should be a more legitimate contender for the Ivy League championship than last year’s fourth-place squad (13-12, 7-7 Ivy).

Although the Bulldogs have to adjust to a new coach, team members were ready to move on from the controversy over coach Scofield’s reassignment. Appleman said she was impressed with the Bulldogs’ performance during a preseason that featured three practices on some days.

“The search for a coach took such a long time, but she’s been such a great addition to our team,” said team captain and Honorable Mention All-Ivy Taryn Gallup ’04. “I think our team improved so much in that [short preseason].”

Other key returning players include Jana Freeman ’05, who led the team with 285 kills and was also named Honorable Mention All-Ivy last season. The five returning members of the sophomore class, including last year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year Jacqueline Becker ’06 and one-time league Rookie of the Week Renee Lopes ’06, will also have to step up for the Bulldogs to break into the league’s top three. As a defensive specialist in the back row, Jessica Kronstadt ’04 will also have an important role.

“[Kronstadt] has stepped up to be a reliable individual and player,” Appleman said.

Rookies Bridgette Deiters ’07, Shannon Farrell ’07 and Anja Perlebach ’07 should also see some action over the next three weekends at Army, the Maine Classic and the Wagner Tournament.

“The freshmen have all brought different aspects,” Gallup said. “I’m impressed with their consistency and all-around ability.”

Gallup, who led the team with 32 service aces and was second in blocks with 51 from her right-side position last year, is confident that the team will have a competitive season.

“This is not a rebuilding year for us–even with a new coach,” Gallup said. “We are going to contend for the Ivy championship.”