Coming off a particularly tough preseason, the Yale volleyball team (4–5, 0–0 Ivy) made its home debut last weekend, sweeping all of its opponents by three sets along the way.
The Yale Invitational featured three northeast schools: Stony Brook (4–10, 0–0 America East), Army (8–4, 0–0 Patriot) and Sacred Heart (4–8, 0–0 Northeast). On Friday, the Bulldogs dominated over the Seawolves and won decisively 25–17, 25–14, 25–21. The Elis took on the Black Knights and the Pioneers in a doubleheader on Saturday and prevailed against both competitors. The Blue and White went 25–19, 25–23, 25–15 against Army and 27–25, 25–13, 25–9 versus Sacred Heart.
“I think we really dominated this weekend,” captain and middle blocker Izzy Simqu ’20 said. “It was awesome to see us stay consistent all weekend, not dropping a set. It was also great to see our team stay together, stay strong through every game and not let up. We had a pretty brutal preseason with the Pac-12 and Big Ten teams, so it was nice to get some wins on our record but also improve as a team at the same time.”
After going 1–1 for the first two points in set one, Stony Brook made two hitting errors, resulting in a 3–1 lead for Yale, who would continue to lead for the rest of the set and eventually win 25–17. The next two sets followed in a similar manner, with the Elis winning 25–14 and 25–21. Outside hitter Kathryn Attar ’21 led the Bulldogs with 13 total kills and a .522 hit rate.
On Saturday, Army came out guns blazing after an easy 3–0 win over Sacred Heart the previous day. Despite their success over the Pioneers, the Black Knights were unable to clinch even one set over the Elis. After Yale comfortably concluded the first set 25–19, West Point momentarily stepped it up for the second set, yet still managed to fall 25–23. The Elis closed the match with a decisive 25–15 victory in the third set.
“We played well against Army and were able to compete at a high level, as well as remain focused to get the sweep. We’re working hard in the gym to get better and play at a high level consistently,” standout libero Maile Somera ’23 said.
That evening, the Elis continued to monopolize the tournament with a 3–0 victory against Sacred Heart. A flat first set by the Bulldogs resulted in a narrow 27–25 win. However, a more aggressive Eli side swiftly clinched the next two sets 25–13 and 25–9, Somera noted. Middle blocker Samantha Bray ’22 led the pack with 11 kills and a 0.733 hitting average while Attar followed closely behind with 10 kills and an ace.
With an undefeated home record last fall, the Bulldogs were especially motivated to continue their home court success this season. Attar was named Yale Invitational MVP while setter Franny Arnatou ’20, Bray and Simqu all earned all-tournament honors.
Dominating the Yale Invitational proved meaningful for the Elis as they head into Ivy League play next weekend.
“I was really pleased with the level of play we had. We had great performances by individuals, but overall we just played really well as a team,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “We are excited to get into Ivy competition and see where we are. We’re still tweaking our lineup, and we’re still working on things; we’re all just trying to get better.”
Next Saturday, the Bulldogs will face their first Ancient Eight rival, Brown, at home in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
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