If this past weekend is any indication of where the Yale volleyball team is headed this season, Yale sports fans are in for a treat.
In their first slate of games this year, the Elis (3–0) did not drop a single set en route to defeating local opponents Fairfield (1–4), Central Connecticut State (2–5) and Quinnipiac (0–7) in the Battle for Connecticut tournament.
Throughout the season opener, the Bulldogs’ athleticism and versatility were on full display. Using a variety of lineups and strategies, head coach Erin Appleman looked to make the most of Yale’s healthy and deep roster. The Elis took care of business in each match, leaving spectators with little doubt that the defending Ivy League champions are again a force to be reckoned with.
“It was a great weekend in terms of the fact that we didn’t drop a set. We were able to stay to stay the course and leave unscathed,” Yale associate head coach Kevin Laseau said. “I think we kept our composure when other teams made some runs … And we really scrapped on defense, hustled and made some really good plays.”
First facing a young Fairfield team that started four rookies, the Bulldogs initially struggled to establish an offensive rhythm. The Elis secured only 10 kills on 35 attempts in the opening set, but they capitalized on Fairfield’s sloppy play to stretch out a lead. Although the Stags attempted to salvage a comeback in the final stages of the set, Yale regrouped and refocused, ultimately winning 25–19.
With their early jitters out of the way and the support of an electric crowd behind them, the Elis cruised to comfortable 25–13 and 25–16 victories in the following two sets. The Bulldogs finished the match with an impressive .302 team hitting percentage, which was elevated by a standout performance from outside hitter Ellis DeJardin ’22. The rookie averaged a kill for every two attempts. DeJardin also added six digs and three blocks to her statline, contributing 13.5 points for the game.
“Ellis is a special athlete,” Appleman said. “She is really quick, jumps incredibly well and her IQ of the game is really exceptional for a first year. She has the unique ability to do some things athletically that frankly not very many people in our conference do.”
In the second match of the weekend, the Elis battled Central Connecticut State in what proved to be a much more competitive contest. Every set came down the wire, but the Bulldogs maintained their composure, coming out on top each time.
From the start of the match, the Blue Devils proved to be an unrelenting and scrappy opponent. In addition to securing 20 blocks against the Elis, Central Connecticut took advantage of Yale’s mistakes to keep itself in the game. Throughout the match, the Bulldogs amassed 20 hitting errors, as well as 9 serving errors.
Despite being out of their groove at several points during the contest, the Bulldogs turned to the leadership of setter Franny Arnautou ’20 to keep their heads in the game. The San Francisco native collected an otherworldly 40 assists, while adding four blocks and seven digs to an already stellar performance.
“Franny is playing the best volleyball she has in a Yale uniform not only from a leadership standpoint, but also a physicality standpoint,” Appleman said. “She’s very physical, able to direct the traffic really well and her focus has been incredible.”
The Bulldogs rounded out the weekend with a clean sweep against Quinnipiac on Saturday night. The Elis came out swinging in the opening frame, triumphing over the Bobcats 25–14 and posting a superb .607 hitting percentage. Yale maintained the upper hand for the rest of the match, finishing off the final two sets of the tournament 25–20 and 25–22.
Offensive weapons DeJardin and outside hitter Gray Malias ’19 registered 13 and 9 kills, respectively, accounting for almost half of the team’s 50-kill total for the game. Captain and libero Kate Swanson ’19 also collected 20 digs. Ultimately, the game was a testament to Yale’s biggest advantage: its formidable balance of firepower and steady defensive play.
“We are so excited to finally have the chance to compete against other teams. We felt so much support in the community and loved the energy in the gym,” libero Yurika Boyd ’21 said. “It is very early in the season, so we are always working hard to get better every day in all aspects of our game.”
The Bulldogs will return to the court against Army this Friday for their first away game of the season. Since 2013, Yale is 47–9 at John J. Lee Amphitheater.
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