Lukas Flippo, Photo Editor

After honing its skills since the start of preseason in early August, the Yale volleyball team will have its first chance to showcase its skills this weekend in New Haven. The Blue and White is set to face off against Hartford and Syracuse on Friday and Quinnipiac on Saturday.

The season will start with the Yale Invitational this weekend at John J. Lee Amphitheater before beginning Ivy play Sept. 24 against Brown. The 14 conference games form part of the 23 total matches the team will be playing this season. Among the opponents the Elis will face this weekend is Syracuse, who managed to shatter the Bulldogs’ perfect record in 2018 in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Penn State.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to get to the floor of the John J. Lee Amphitheater. We’re the Blue and White,” Yale volleyball head coach Erin Appleman told the News. “We’re excited to get out there and compete.”

In December 2019, the Bulldogs (0–0–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) split the Ivy League champions title with Princeton (0–0–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) after a narrow 5-set match that marked their 11th championship crown. Shortly afterward, a tie-breaker game for the NCAA tournament bid resulted in a loss against the Tigers. The Elis were undefeated at home during the 2019 season.

Last year, the team found itself split between on-campus students and those who took time off. This posed a difficult and unusual challenge for the Bulldogs as they attempted to stay in shape during their time without playing together. Five students took a leave of absence for at least one semester last year. While most team members were on campus in the fall, only four were on campus in the spring to run practices. Compounded by the quick-changing phases of Yale’s COVID-19 practice policies last year, the team has their work cut out for them as they attempt to integrate two classes of players that have yet to compete at the collegiate level — 2024 and 2025.

Team captain and outside hitter Ellis DeJardin ’22 told the News last year that she is “not worried” about integrating a large number of new players into the team but acknowledged that the dynamic might be different from what it normally would be.

Despite this challenge, Appleman expressed her confidence in the team’s bond and ability to bring players of all years together. In a call with the News, she was especially happy with the leadership demonstrated by seniors such as DeJardin, outside hitter Kathryn Attar ’22 and right-side hitter Ashley Dreyer ’22.

“There are a lot of new faces, but my leadership group is doing a fantastic job,” Appleman said. “They have taken people under their wings and really showed them the ropes.”

This year, the Bulldogs will welcome five new first years onto the team: middle hitter Gigi Barr ’25, libero Bella Chan ’25, setter Carly Diehl ’25, outside hitter Emma Shadwick ’25 and outside hitter Mila Yarich ’25. Many of them have not only garnered all-state and national accolades, but also All-Academic honors. For example, Yarich has earned AAU All-America and All-Academic honors.

“I want to see the chemistry of the team. I want to see us doing the skills that we’ve worked on correctly,” Appleman said about the beginning of the season. “I want to see us going out there and enjoying the sport again. The excitement about volleyball is what I am looking forward to.”

The Bulldogs will host Hartford for the first match of their season on Friday, Sept. 3 at 1 p.m.

Ángela Pérez is City Editor of the YDN. She was a former beat reporter, covering City Hall and Women's Volleyball. She was a former editor and writer for the WKND desk. She is from Puerto Rico and plans to major in Architecture.
Wei-Ting Shih covers baseball, volleyball and women's basketball as a staff reporter. Originally from Taiwan and Nicaragua, she is a sophomore in Grace Hopper College double-majoring in Ethics, Politics & Economics and History.