Courtesy of Steve Musco
Last November in Yale’s final regular season game of the year at Columbia, outside hitter Kathryn Attar ’21 registered the title-winning kill — her 28th of the match and most in a single game among Ivy League players last season.
The team’s five-set win secured it a share of the Ivy crown, and a week later the league recognized Attar as Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Now a month into the 2018 season, Attar has once again established herself as a major contributor to this year’s group, and her consistency has earned her an increased role in the Bulldog system.
“She’s playing real hard, and she’s finding a lot of good success,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said. “As she gets older, her responsibilities are changing a little bit on the team — I feel like she’s still learning about the system here. Last year as a freshman you just play, and as a sophomore there’s a lot more responsibility put on your shoulders.”
As her time with the program increases, Attar has coupled strong play with a greater focus on hitting. According to Appleman, she has taken time to strengthen her swing and improve the shots she takes. Teammates like Ellis DeJardin ’22 laud her commitment and work ethic: an illness landed Attar at Yale Health Monday morning at 6 a.m., but she made it to Payne Whitney for practice in the afternoon.
In last weekend’s road trip to Penn and Princeton, Attar paced the Elis on offense along with fellow outside hitters DeJardin and Kelley Wirth ’19. Attar’s weekend yielded a combined 20 kills, but her success did not end with offense. She also added eight digs in Friday night’s win against the Quakers — a testament to her impact on defense.
“She’s super tough to play against because she always has a couple tricks up her sleeve,” said DeJardin. “Whether it be a fancy trick shot or a tough serve, she always keeps the opponents on their toes.”
Before Yale, Attar — one of four Yale players from Florida — played club volleyball with Tampa United and the Orlando Tampa Volleyball Academy. Raised in a volleyball family, she intended to play volleyball in a Power Five conference and committed to the Pac-12’s University of Colorado at the start of her junior year, Attar said.
But she decommitted that December after the program flipped coaching staffs, and though she hadn’t previously talked with Appleman or associate head coach Kevin Laseau, setter Frances Arnautou ’20 convinced her to look into Yale. The two had played together at a USA Volleyball National Training Camp, and after a visit in April, Attar committed to the Bulldogs on the spot. Still, entering her first year, she didn’t expect to play a significant role.
“I had come to a few games and they seemed like a really strong team,” said Attar. “I was honestly just excited to get to work with a lot of the older players … but the coaches pretty much told me from the beginning if you work hard, you’re going to have a big impact this year.”
They were right. Attar caught fire at this point in the season last fall, propelling the Elis to wins in eight of their first nine conference games. As a first year, she won two consecutive Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards on Oct. 2 and Oct. 9. The first award followed her 19 kills and .368 hitting percentage against Penn while the second followed her 15 kills and .371 percentage against Cornell a week later, a game in which she also contributed 13 digs.
By the end of 2017, Attar led Yale with 240 kills, the fifth most in the Ivy League. Her 218 digs, more than twice that of other outside hitters at Yale, ranked second on the team behind libero and now captain Kate Swanson ’19. She joined Swanson as one of seven players — but the only first year — on the All-Ivy First Team.
DeJardin, in many ways, has become the dominant first-year contributor that Attar was last fall. The rookie outside hitter won her second Ivy League Rookie of the Week award after Yale’s win at Brown, and as Attar did last fall, DeJardin leads all Bulldogs with 113 kills. Described by Appleman as a great team player, Attar has transferred some lessons from her first-year success to DeJardin as she navigates the extra attention.
“She’s been a good role model for me, both on and off the court,” said DeJardin. “On the court, she’s always giving me pointers and tips, and she will answer almost any question I throw at her. She’s been especially helpful with helping me learn the philosophy behind the way we play.”
Through 12 games this year, Attar ranks second on the team with 96 kills, averaging 2.40 kills per set.
William McCormack | firstname.lastname@example.org