The Yale volleyball team (7–3–0, 0–1–0 Ivy) was fierce against Brown (8–3–0, 1–0–0 Ivy) last Friday, but ultimately lost 3–2 in a closely-matched five-set thriller. 

More than 400 people gathered at the John J. Lee Amphitheatre to support the Bulldogs in the highly-anticipated opening match of the Ivy League volleyball season. After starting off strong with a 25–19 first set, Yale lost the next two sets 25–21 and 26–18. The Bulldogs then bounced back 25–16 to extend the match, but narrowly lost to the Bears 15–13 in the final set.

“There were some good high points and there were some not-so-high points,” Yale volleyball head coach Erin Appleman said about the match. “[The team] is pretty young, and we are just trying some things to get better. There’s definitely room for improvement, but I’m also pretty happy with what I saw.” 

Yale’s last match-up against Brown was a 3–0 sweep on Oct. 26, 2019. Heading into Ivy play, the Bulldogs and the Bears were two of four Ancient Eight teams that boasted winning percentages at or above .700. The two other teams were Dartmouth (8–2–0, 0–1–0 Ivy) and Princeton (7–2–0, 1–0–0 Ivy). 

The Brown squad committed nine errors and gave up the first set to the Elis, but recovered to take the next two sets. Yale equalized the match with 15 total kills and a .250 hitting percentage in the fourth set to force a fifth one. The final set was a close one, featuring nine ties. Both squads were eventually at 13–13 before Brown scored the last two points to gain the edge in the match.

“It was a really good and competitive game against Brown on both sides of the court,” outside hitter Mila Yarich ’25 wrote to the News. “Both teams had some unbelievable plays throughout the match. It was a tough loss that came down to a couple of points at the end of the set, but luckily there will be more opportunities for redemption to come.”

Despite the outcome, Yale delivered a solid offensive performance against Brown. The sophomores contributed significantly to the rally efforts. Outside hitter Bonnie Bostic ’24 and middle hitter Fatima Samb ’24 made 19 and 15 kills respectively, while libero Maile Somera ‘24 had 27 digs and two powerful aces. Other key players were Yarich, who had 13 digs, and setter Carly Diehl ’25, who had 50 assists. At .227, the team’s overall hitting percentage was better than that of the Bears. 

The match against Brown was the first home game for Yale in two weeks. Two weeks ago the Elis swept their competition at the Stony Brook Invitational and last week the Bulldogs won two out of three matches at the UConn Challenge. This game also marked the first Ivy League match for Yale’s volleyball team in over a year.

“I feel so grateful to be back on the court at Yale,” Somera wrote to the News. “It’s been 18 months in the making. It’s been super fun to be back in a competitive and hard-working environment that is incorporating new players.”

Despite the shaky start to the Ivy League season, the Bulldogs are looking to bounce back  when they host Columbia and Cornell next weekend. Yale, the defending Ivy League champions, have won the last seven matches against the Lions and the last four matches against the Big Red.

“We are a young team that is super competitive and talented, and I have all the faith that we will bounce back next week,” Somera told the News. “We’re excited to play in our gym. We’ve been working hard all season to come out and compete, and that’s exactly what we plan to do.”

The Bulldogs will face off against Columbia on Friday at 7 p.m.

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.