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As the first Yale volleyball recruit from New England since 2012, Maile Somera ’23 has already proved herself a worthy competitor and invaluable contributor for the Bulldogs this season.

Somera, a first year in Davenport College, hails from Barrington, Rhode Island. A defensive specialist for the Elis (5–5, 1–0 Ivy), she alternates between the libero and right-back positions. Her steady presence at the back of the court has proved critical to the Bulldogs’ success this season, particularly the five-match winning streak that the team currently boasts.

Her love for the game is in her DNA. The daughter of two college volleyball coaches, Somera was raised in Columbia, South Carolina, where she began her competitive volleyball career at the age of seven.

“Ever since I was born, [my parents] were cradling me with a volleyball,” Somera said. “It has always been their lives, and it ended up becoming mine.”

Somera’s mother Nancy was a four-year starter and three-year captain for the University of Southern California in the 1980s. With an impressive legacy that refuses to fade out of the record books, she still holds one of the school’s top 10 career records for kills, attacks and digs.

After middle school, Somera’s family relocated from Columbia to Barrington for her mother and father to pursue careers as head volleyball coaches at Johnson & Wales University and Wesleyan University respectively. She attended Barrington High School, where, in addition to being a four-year member of varsity volleyball, she ran track, volunteered as a tutor and participated in the debate club.

Somera’s high school career speaks for itself. The Words Unlimited 2019 Female Athlete of the Year, Rhode Island Interscholastic League Volleyball Player of the Year and three-time Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year are just a few of the titles that the Yale first year accumulated. Somera was the first volleyball player to win the award three times.

Eric Rueb, a journalist for the Providence Journal, wrote that “nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. Might be time to add Maile Somera winning Gatorade Player of the Year awards to that list.”

During her senior year, Somera led her high school team to the state championship match, narrowly falling in five sets to North Kingstown.

She concluded her prep career with a staggering 1,387 kills and 832 digs.

“Maile is by far the best player in the state of Rhode Island,” said Nikolai Wojciechowski, head coach at La Salle Academy, in a press release when Somera was named Rhode Island’s 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year. “She is the best hitter, server and passer in the state, hands down.”

Verbally committing to playing volleyball for the Blue and White the summer before her junior year, Somera knew that she wanted to attend Yale after her very first visit to campus.

“The coaching staff is really strong. Despite being in the Ivy League, we always compete with Power Five teams and hold our own. [Yale] is consistently a strong program, which is alluring, because you don’t get that a lot with highly academic schools,” Somera said.

So far this season, Somera has established herself as a key defensive player, playing 33 out of 37 sets.

“She is one of our best athletes, as well as one of our most competitive players,” head volleyball coach Erin Appleman said. “This combination makes her match-ready all the time.”

As the only first year on the team leaderboard, Somera has identified herself as not only one of the best players in her position, but also as an effective server. This season, she has delivered 67 digs. She also has 10 service aces to her name, only one fewer than junior outside hitter Kathryn Attar ’21 and senior setter Franny Arnautou ’20.

Both Attar and captain and outside hitter Izzy Simqu ’20 highlighted Somera’s athleticism as a key driver behind her success as a player.

“Maile has been such an integral addition to our defense this year,” Attar said. “She’s done an incredible job acclimating to our practice and game environment –– she’s played different positions and always gives her all no matter who our opponent is. Her strengths, among many, have to be her levelheadedness in stressful situations, how she will inspire everyone around her to work as hard as they can and her athleticism.”

Somera and her fellow first years faced a challenging preseason after arriving on campus in late August. The team made cross-country trips to both Indiana and California within their first three weeks, going 1–5 against powerhouse opponents.

“There’s nothing more fun than going in as the underdog and getting to play with nothing to lose,” Somera said.

Ivy League play kicked off this past Friday against Brown at home, with the Elis prevailing 3–0. Yale will play each Ivy League opponent twice in the regular season.

The Bulldogs square off against Harvard this Friday at 7 p.m. in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

Olivia Tucker | olivia.tucker@yale.edu

Margaret Hedeman | margaret.hedeman@yale.edu