Fresh off an undefeated opening weekend, the Yale volleyball team (3–0, 0–0 Ivy) looks to continue its winning streak at the Art Carmichael Invitational in Rhode Island this weekend.
After experimenting with several lineups throughout the past weekend, Yale head coach Erin Appleman’s biggest challenge this season will be to figure out how to make the most of her team’s abundance of talent. With a roster 19-women deep, the Bulldogs pose a challenge to their opponents in every department. Going into this weekend, the Elis stand atop the Ivy League in both hitting percentage and opponent hitting percentage, indicative of their strong offense and solid backline.
“It was wonderful to be back in [John Lee Amphitheater],” outside hitter Tristin Kott ’20 said. “The entire team has been super eager to play. We are happy with the results of this weekend but are still hungry for more and know that there are always things that we can improve on.”
Not only did the Yale team triumph over its opponents with three clean sweeps last weekend, but individual Bulldogs also earned Ivy League accolades. Outside hitter Ellis DeJardin ’22 was recognized as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week. The California native averaged four kills per set, the third best rate in the conference.
DeJardin’s front-row counterpart, middle blocker Destiny Daniel ’21, also proved integral to the Elis’ success. The sophomore’s performance earned her the top spot in the conference’s hitting percentage standings, averaging an impressive .481 efficiency.
In the opening match of its upcoming tournament, Yale will face Army (3–4) for the first time since 2014. The Black Knights have experienced a turbulent start to their 2018 campaign, but will nonetheless challenge the Bulldogs with their steady defensive unit and well-rounded group of attackers.
“Army is just a really big, physical team,” Appleman said. “When they are in system, they are really good. They also have some hitters that hit a high and hard ball.”
The following morning, the Elis will battle New Hampshire (2–5, 0–0 CAA), a team eager to retain its momentum after finally breaking a five-game losing streak last weekend. Despite their disappointing record, the Wildcats could still pose a threat to the Bulldogs. In New Hampshire’s most recent match, the Wildcats hit over .430 in the final two sets, recovering from a 2–0 set deficit against Bryant.
Nonetheless, Yale’s consistent record and its arsenal of attacking weapons put the team at an advantage. As it stands, three Yale attackers rank among the top ten in the Ivy League for hitting efficiency, in part due to setter Franny Arnautou ’20. The junior is first in the Ivy League, averaging 10.78 assists per set. Arnautou has also been aided by an elite group of passers, including libero and captain Kate Swanson ’19, who is the only athlete in the conference to be averaging more than five digs per set.
“Not only is Kate a tremendous passer, but she also talks a lot and lets the hitters know where to put the ball,” Appleman said. “She was voted captain for a reason, and most of that is because she has great leadership ability and a great volleyball IQ.”
Yale’s final contest this weekend will be against tournament host Rhode Island (2–4, 0–0 CAA), which the Bulldogs defeated last year at the Yale Invitational. For their first weekend at home, the Rams will look to capitalize on the opportunity to return the favor. The Rams are 2–5 all-time against the Elis.
After a disheartening start to the season, Rhode Island turned their game around with a hard-fought five-set victory over Columbia. The Rams will continue to rely on the veteran leadership of setter Lauren Pick, who registered 50 assists for the match against the Lions. Still, Rhode Island averages a low .136 hitting efficiency, and the Rams will inevitably need to step up their firepower against the Elis.
“We did a good job of working through first match jitters and really using the energy of our awesome home crowd to play with passion and purpose,” Arnautou said. “Also, in tight and tense moments, we performed very well. However, I think we need to be a lot sharper and there are lots of things upon which we must improve.”
This is Yale’s first time participating in the Art Carmichael Invitational. The tournament honors Rhode Island’s former head coach, who led the team to 162 victories during his six years with the Rams.
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