Gearing up for their first set of home games this weekend, the Yale volleyball team enters a period of transition between a tough preseason and the beginning of Ivy League play. Through it all, the senior Bulldogs have been the driving forces behind top-level performance and team culture.
This season is particularly meaningful for the team’s seniors, who are leaving everything on the court this fall. Since the class of 2020’s arrival at Yale in 2016, the Yale volleyball team has won the Ivy League championship twice. Winning the championship this year would place a third consecutive ring on the hand of every senior on the team.
“The team has been working really hard in practice, and it was a good opportunity to compete at a high level and play some strong opponents,” Maile Somera ’23 said. “We’re continuing to work hard in the gym and aiming to get better every day.”
The Bulldogs (1–5, 0–0 Ivy) have made two cross-country trips already this season, traveling first to Bloomington, Indiana, where they played Oklahoma (7–3, 0–0 Big 12), Oregon State (6–2, 0–0 Pac-12) and Indiana (8–2, 0–0 Big Ten). The Bulldogs’ 3–2 loss to OU was particularly tight, with powerhouse Rebekah Nemeth ’20 posting a career-best 18 kills, and setter Franny Arnautou ’20 bringing the heat against the Sooners in similar fashion.
The following weekend, the Elis traveled to Los Angeles to enjoy some well-deserved beach time and play several of the most competitive teams in the country, including No. 20 USC (5–2, 0–0 Pac-12). Though Yale fell to Villanova 3–1 and USC 2–3, the Elis secured a resounding 3–0 victory against Howard University.
“When you’re playing teams at that level, it’s about being aggressive and going for it,” Coach Erin Appleman said. “You cannot hesitate.”
Setting the tone for this season, Nemeth has excelled on the court, while Izzy Simqu ’20 has established herself as a powerful leader on the team and a force to be reckoned with.
Nemeth has steadily improved throughout her career, going from only playing three games her sophomore year to every set this fall. Nemeth was voted All-Tournament for both competitions that the Bulldogs have played in so far this year. Her tenacity on the court has led the team to success; in the match against Villanova, Nemeth led the Elis with 17 kills as well as 11 in the match against USC.
Simqu, this year’s captain, has a clear set of goals for the team. She recognizes that focusing on their side of the court, rather than the opponent’s, will set the Bulldogs up for success in the long run. According to Simqui, the team chemistry is particularly good this year, a sentiment that Appleman echoed.
“I want the team to feel proud every time we step on and off the court,” Simqu said. “Win or lose, we want to play our game, play Yale volleyball and leave nothing behind.”
Last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year, Arnautou, has picked up this fall right where she left off. She leads the team with 217 assists, just under four times as many as the other four assist leaders on the Elis combined. Appleman also noted her strong leadership skills and contribution to positive team culture.
Tristin Kott ’20, who was named to the All-Ivy Second Team her first and second year, rounds out the senior squad. Kott has appeared in four of the Bulldogs’ six games thus far.
“I feel very confident in our ability, especially because we competed at such a high level against a team like USC,” Simqu said. “We’re so excited to play at home this weekend, and I think our energy and pride will show.”
Complimentary beach towels will be distributed at Friday night’s beach-themed home game versus Stony Brook at 7 p.m.
Margaret Hedeman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivia Tuker | email@example.com