The volleyball team is facing the Minnesota Gophers tonight in its home opener.
The Bulldogs are set to host Minnesota, Albany and Boston College in this weekend’s tournament as part of the Yale Invitational. The Minnesota women are currently ranked 18th in the nation, and several Elis agreed that they would be fierce opponents.
“We’ve been working really hard all preseason, and we can’t wait to finally see everything come together,” setter Kelly Johnson ’16 said. “We are facing some great competition, but I know we are up to the challenge.”
Johnson is the only remaining setter from last year’s roster after three-time Ivy League Player of the Year Kendall Polan ’14 graduated, but Johnson is joined on the court by freshman setter Kelsey Crawford ’18 this season.
Crawford comes with experience as the starting setter for Archbishop Mitty high school, which has won the California Division II volleyball title the past two years. She also won two medals at the USA Volleyball Junior Nationals before joining the Bulldogs.
“Of course we miss [Polan],” Johnson said. “But [Crawford] came into the program and has seamlessly fit into the dynamic of our team. I have nothing but confidence in her, and I’m so excited to watch her grow as a player and a leader here at Yale.”
Debuting tonight alongside Crawford are freshmen and fellow California natives outside hitter Kaitlyn Gibbons ’18 and middle hitter Meaghan Truman ’18, as well as outside hitter Megan Rasmussen ‘18 from Texas.
Outside hitter Brittani Steinberg ’17 agreed with Johnson that the new and old team members came together and played as a unit in the preseason.
“This season, it’s really important to us as a team to play at our top performance level during every match, whether it be the first game of the season or the last,” she said. “I think this weekend will be a great opportunity to showcase our team chemistry. Our team is really close, and I think that will be visible on the court Friday night.”
Yale will have a new coach debut tonight as well. Brendan McGourn joins the Yale staff as assistant coach to head coach Erin Appleman after serving in the same capacity at Springfield College. Appleman said she is confident in McGourn’s leadership after observing the dynamic between McGourn and the team at the gym during preseason.
Minnesota is coached by Hugh McCutcheon, who joined as head coach last year. Prior to joining the Gophers full-time, McCutcheon led the U.S. National Women’s Volleyball team to the gold medal game at the 2012 Olympics in London.
“It’s amazing to face tough competition like Minnesota,” middle blocker Jesse Ebner ’16 said. “We love the challenge and the chance to prove ourselves. Playing at home with a great crowd is the best feeling in the world, so we couldn’t be more excited for tonight.”
The Yale Invitational will be the Bulldogs’ last set of home games until Oct. 17. Next weekend, the women will travel to Pennsylvania to battle Kansas, Penn State and Villanova in the Villanova Classic. Their first Ivy game will be away at Brown on Sep. 26.