Setter Franny Arnautou ’20 was recently nominated for the 2019 Senior CLASS Award in NCAA Division I women’s volleyball, making the list as the only Ivy League player of 30 nominees.
The award is given annually to senior student-athletes with notable achievements in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition. Arnautou, a four-year starter for the Bulldogs, is also the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year and two-time All-Ivy honoree. She has proved essential to the seven-match win streak and undefeated conference record the Elis currently boast.
“I was pretty shocked, frankly, when I heard about the nomination,” Arnautou said. “[The other nominees are] peers who I really respect as volleyball players and as individuals, so it’s always really an honor to be included in a shortlist with people like that. It was a really special moment for myself but also for my parents who have definitely taken this journey with me and have been a huge part of my Yale experience.”
Hailing from San Francisco, California, Arnautou began playing volleyball in fifth grade and joined competitive travel and club teams in eighth grade. In high school, she played for both Absolute Volleyball Club and the University High School varsity team, where Prep Volleyball named her a top-50 setter ace. In 2014, she won bronze medals at Junior Nationals.
As a Yale first year, Arnautou led her team in assists per set and earned a spot on the Ivy League Honor Roll three times. She became the first Eli and only Ivy Leaguer to secure a spot on the U.S. Women’s Junior National Training Team in her sophomore year.
“Franny’s love for the game never fails to amaze me,” captain and outside hitter Izzy Simqu ’20 said. “She is such a committed competitive player and has always put her all into every lift, practice and game … Franny is a leader on and off the court. She’s eloquent, driven and knows the game so well. To have her next to me all four years has been really rewarding.”
Last season, Arnautou was unanimously voted First Team All-Ivy, facilitating the Bulldogs with 834 assists, 61 kills, 212 digs and 22 service aces. She represents Yale’s 10th Ivy League Player of the Year –– the first since 2014. Additionally, she was named to the Ivy League Weekly Honor Roll four times.
For Arnautou, volleyball is more than just a sport — it guided her through formative years.
“The most important thing it’s taught me is how to be a good teammate, how to be aware of how those around you are feeling, how to make people feel a part of and feel important to a team’s larger goal, how to have hard conversations and how to advocate for yourself,” Arnautou said. “[Being part of a team] is something I’m [going to] miss really dearly because there’s nothing like working with a group of strong women towards one goal and achievement it. It’s so powerful and special.”
Arnautou thrives both on and off the court. In addition to being a member of the Yale volleyball squad, the Californian represents Berkeley College as a Community Consent Educator and is a member of the Unorthojocks, an all-athlete a cappella group.
The Bulldogs have enjoyed a successful start to the season so far, defeating every Ancient Eight foe that they have crossed. Arnautou leads the team in assists and services aces and is on the top-five leader board for digs and blocks.
“Franny is such a talented player and an amazing teammate. She is a massive contributor to our success,” outside hitter Bonnie Bostic ’23 said.
The Elis are currently 7–5 and 3–0 Ivy after a grueling preseason schedule with tournaments in California and Indiana. The Blue and White travel again this weekend with stints against Penn and Princeton.
Despite the team’s progress toward replicating last year’s perfect conference record, Arnautou remains mindful of her broader goals for the team as a whole.
“At the end of the day, what’s really important to me is being a conscientious, thoughtful and good teammate,” Arnautou said. “I think many people in this program are already like that, which is really special, so I hope that legacy is carried on. It’s definitely not something that I brought to the table but something that I saw the people above me do, and it’s a precedent that has been set.”
After initially nominating 30 players for the Senior CLASS Award, the list will be narrowed down to 10 finalists midseason. Coaches, fans and media nationwide will subsequently receive ballots to vote for one candidate who epitomizes excellence in all four categories. Arnautou would be the first Ivy League player to advance to the ballot of 10.
The 2019 Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the December NCAA Division I championship.
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