The women’s volleyball team looks to build on last year’s success — the Elis won their fourth-straight Ivy League championship in 2013 — as it opens the season with the Yale Invitational this weekend.

The women will host Minnesota on Friday, then Albany and Boston College on Saturday at the Lanman Center in Payne Whitney Gym. The Bulldogs’ first opponent, Minnesota, is currently ranked 18th in Division I. The team is ready to test its strength after practicing under head coach Erin Appleman and her new assistant coach Brandon McGourn.

“The chemistry between our coaching staff is really great right now,” Appleman said. “[McGourn] is really good in the gym, and he comes from a championship background,”

McGourn joins the Bulldogs’ coaching staff after serving as an assistant coach at Springfield College, and the Pride won three Division-III national championships during his tenure.

Appleman also commended captain Mollie Rogers ’15 for her leadership thus far, saying that she has pushed the team to function as a cohesive unit.

Rogers, an outside hitter who is ranked 10th in the history of Yale volleyball with 802 kills and an average of 3.07 kills per set throughout her Yale volleyball career, was one of three Elis to be named first-team all-Ivy last season, joining setters Kendall Polan ’14 and Kelly Johnson ’16. Libero Maddie Rudnick ’15 and outsider hitter Brittani Steinberg ’17 were selected as members of the all-Ivy second team. Although the team will be without a three-time Ivy League Player of the Year in Polan, the class of 2018 is poised to help the Elis retool, rather than rebuild in the star setter’s absence.

Rogers said that the team’s freshmen are all ready to play at a high level and will be great additions this year.

“We are all very excited for our season opener this Friday against Minnesota,” Rogers said. “They are a talented team, and we are up for the challenge.”

She noted that the women are looking to bring home the Ivy League title again this year. Last year, the Bulldogs finished 13–1 against Ivy foes. The Bulldogs have been the defending champions of the Ancient Eight for four straight years.

Steinberg said the women are focusing on one game at a time, and she and Appleman agreed that the team and the coaches will expect a high level of intensity from each other throughout this season.

The goal is to be the most improved team in the Ivy League, Appleman said.

“We want to be better in December than we are in August,” she added. “Whether it’s passes or hits or kills, we want to be improving every day. We’re still figuring out what ‘Yale Volleyball 2014’ is, and what we can do to make this team as successful as it has been in the past.”

Appleman added that each team has found its specialty in the past and that she is excited to find out what that will be for this year’s team.

She said that she has been “thrilled” with what she has seen on the court thus far.

After opening at home this weekend, the Yale women will travel to Villanova, Pa. to play Kansas, Penn State and Villanova in the Villanova Classic.