As the two-time defending Ivy League champion, the Yale women’s volleyball team remains the squad to beat this season. The team, which finished the 2018 campaign 19–5 overall and 13–1 in conference, welcomes back several league-recognized players and an incoming class that PrepVolleyball, a college volleyball news organization, named one of the best in the nation.
Last season, the Elis dominated the league — losing only to Princeton in a four set duel early in the season — and remained competitive out of conference, beating Alabama State and Rhode Island. But the Bulldogs eventually fell to Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Championship. After graduating five seniors, the Elis welcome five newcomers this school year who are eager to fill big shoes: Bonnie Bostic ’23, Amelia Browne ’23, Tiffany Pedersen-Henry ’23, Maile Somera ’23 and Zoie Stewart ’23.
“We’ve been working really hard, and it’s been paying off,” Ellis DeJardin ’22 said. “We’re growing more comfortable playing with new people, and I’m excited to see where this season takes us.”
While the rest of the student body enjoyed their summer, the Yale women’s volleyball team has been training together for weeks in preparation for the upcoming season. The season opens on Sept. 6 with a series of away games at Indiana University against Oklahoma and Oregon State. The Elis battle in their first Ivy League tilt against Brown on Sept. 28.
Led by senior captain Izzy Simqu ’20, the Bulldogs seek to reclaim their NCAA tournament bid, which is automatically given to that year’s Ivy League Champion. Kate Foeman also joins the staff as a volunteer assistant coach to support 2018 Ivy League Coach of the Year Erin Appleman, who begins her 17th season with the Elis. Foeman brings her experience playing in both Division I collegiate and professional volleyball to Yale. She was a four-year student-athlete at the University of Denver and played in both the University League and the National Volleyball League while studying at Durham University in England.
“I think this team collectively and individually has so much talent and depth,” Simqu said. “It’s such a privilege to be a senior leader on such a great team. Right now, we’re just preparing for the season as a whole but also getting ready for our first tournament at [Indiana University]. We’re working on integrating the [first years] but also just getting back in the gym to get as many reps as we can on pretty much every skill.”
Despite graduating 2018 Defensive Player of the Year and Captain Kate Swanson ’19, the team boasts an impressive squad of veteran players including Ivy League Player of the Year Franny Arnautou ’20 and Rookie of the Year DeJardin. Additionally, four Bulldogs — Kelley Wirth ’19, Swanson, Arnautou and DeJardin — were named to the Ivy League First Team, while Samantha Bray ’22 was named to the league’s second team.
With the abundance of talent on the court, expectations remain high for the Elis. Last season, the sophomore class earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors seven separate times between DeJardin and Bray. And as a program, the Bulldogs have clinched seven league titles in the past nine years. In the past 15 years, the team has never finished lower than second in the league, making the Bulldogs the team to beat this season.
Still, team members interviewed by the News remain cautious and humble, knowing that their aspirations require hard work and dedication.
“In order to secure another NCAA bid, I think we really need to focus on not only the big picture of winning Ivies and getting to the NCAA championship, but we also have to focus on smaller goals and take it one match, one point, at a time,” Renee Shultz ’22 said. “We need to take care of business, not get ahead of ourselves and not underestimate anyone.”
The Bulldogs kick off their season in Bloomington, Indiana against Oklahoma on Sept. 6 at 12 p.m. EST.
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