For the Yale (6–3, 0–0) volleyball program, the beginning of every season is dedicated to experimenting with different lineups. Deciding on an optimal starting arrangement is no easy task, but one choice throughout this preseason has been a no-brainer: outside hitter Ellis DeJardin ’22. The first year has started every single one of Yale’s nine matches.
And for good reason. Within her first three weeks of collegiate play, DeJardin has already established herself as a force to be reckoned with. The rookie finished her first game with an astounding .500 hitting efficiency. The next day, she was featured on NCAA highlight reels for a one-handed, behind-the-back point. Currently, the first year ranks among the Ivy League top-10 for both points and kills per set, while also ranking second on the team in digs per set.
“When we first saw her, we thought she was the type of dynamic athlete we wanted playing for us,” associate coach Kevin Laseau said. “She was just very explosive, a big jumper, and she loved competing … We were hot on her trail after that.”
DeJardin got her start in volleyball as a second-grader playing for her local YMCA recreational league. Prior to volleyball, she had a brief stint on the soccer field but quickly hung up her cleats in pursuit of a sport that involved less running.
“At some point I was like, ‘I don’t like all this running’,” DeJardin said. “That’s why I got started with volleyball. It’s so action-packed, [you] touch the ball every point, every three touches. I just really like how dynamic and how fast-paced it is.”
After playing in recreational leagues for three years, DeJardin joined a club volleyball team in fifth grade. As her competitive career progressed, she emerged as an explosive and effective player at the net. Standing at just 5-foot-9, DeJardin is undersized for an outside hitter, but she makes up for it with smart decision-making, a confident demeanor and a 30-inch vertical leap.
The California native credits her club program — San Gabriel Elite Volleyball — for preparing her to succeed at the collegiate level. San Gabriel Elite is one of the nation’s best programs. In the 17-Open Junior Nationals last June, DeJardin’s team placed third — and she earned individual all-tournament honors.
“[DeJardin’s] club team was full of players that went to top-25 programs, and yet I thought she was the glue that kept that team going,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “There was a reason that on match point, they would set her. She was a consummate teammate and a good leader, and those are the traits I look for in a player.”
Yale volleyball had had its eye on DeJardin since her sophomore year in high school. Beyond her versatility and firepower on the court, coaches Appleman and Laseau also saw the qualities of a good teammate and leader in DeJardin, who is “super friendly, always smiling” and “super fun to be around.”
Before committing to Yale, DeJardin was also recruited by several other Division 1 volleyball programs, including rivals Harvard and Princeton. The rookie says that Yale fulfills both her desire for an academically focused college on top of a “great volleyball program.”
“A lot of [the decision] actually had to do with when I visited and when I spent time with the girls on the team and the coaches,” she said. “I had only been on campus with the girls for less than 24 hours … and then a couple months later, I committed here. After being on other campuses for much longer, something just felt right [about Yale].”
When asked about the strengths of Yale’s volleyball program, DeJardin continues to emphasize the close-knit and supportive nature of the team. While adapting to a new volleyball system and coaching philosophy at Yale, she feels like her overall transition has been smooth, in part because of her teammates. The first year said she also feels grateful to play on a small team because the experience has been “super helpful for the entire transition to college.”
Off of the court, DeJardin is a prospective psychology major with a passion for art history and dance.
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