VOLLEYBALL: Bulldogs end season on a high note in split weekend
Despite falling narrowly to Dartmouth in a five-set thriller, the Yale volleyball team ended its season on a high note after a successful rematch against Harvard. The Bulldogs finished this season ranked third in the Ivy standings.
The Yale volleyball team (16–7, 9–5 Ivy) bounced back after a narrow loss against Dartmouth (15–8, 7–7) with a successful rematch against rival Harvard (10–13, 7–7) to close out Ivy League play on a high note.
The Bulldogs finished its season in third place in the Ancient Eight rankings, behind Brown and Princeton. Last weekend, the squad’s grit was tested on the road with both games being drawn out to a full five sets. Although the Elis fell in Hanover on Friday against the Big Green, they took home the win against old rivals Crimson in Cambridge on Saturday.
“It was a really fun weekend and a really good way to end the season,” Kathryn Attar ’22 told the News. “I’m really proud of the team and how we were able to perform, especially how we were able to pull up at the end of the last set against Harvard. [This] was a great season and I think we all really grew throughout the year.”
The Blue and White last took on Dartmouth and Harvard in October, where the results were reversed. Yale defeated the Big Green in four sets, allowing the Bulldogs to extend their winning streak against Dartmouth to ten consecutive games. 832 fans packed the John J. Lee Amphitheater on Saturday — the highest attendance for the team this season — for a five-set thriller against Harvard. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs came up short over the two games.
Last Friday, Dartmouth took an early lead against the Bulldogs and dominated the first set 25–10. However, the Bulldogs woke up in the second set, hitting almost twice as well as the Big Green and ultimately winning 25–23. The next two sets consisted of back-and-forth battles, as Dartmouth took the third set 25–22 and Yale the fourth 25–19. Though the Bulldogs scored the first point of the final set, they ultimately lost their momentum. Dartmouth scored the next five points and were able to hold on to their lead to win the set 15–8 and took the game.
Yale’s dramatic victory over Harvard took a strong team effort and was electric from the start. The first set featured multiple tiebreakers, as the final score eventually edged out to 29–27 in favor of the Bulldogs. Yale dropped the next two sets 25–18 and 25–13 as the Harvard offense exploded, but the squad was able to come back in the fourth with a dominant 25–15 performance. The Elis carried their momentum into the fifth and final frame, which they wrapped up 15–9 with a powerful kill from Attar, who had a match-high 16 kills.
“It was the perfect way to end the season,” libero Maile Somera ’24 said. With five assists, 15 digs and five aces, she was on fire on the court. “It felt really nice to come back and clinch that win, and prove that we are the better team.”
This season, the Yale volleyball team led the conference in ace serves, while remaining in the top three for kills and hitting percentage. Outside hitter Mila Yarich ’25 and setter Carly Diehl ’25 were named Ivy League Rookies of the Week, while Attar was a Player of the Week. Outside hitter Tiffany Pedersen-Henry ’23 and Samb were recognized in the Honor Roll.
Overall, Yale had a solid season. The team showed promise in preconference, sweeping the Stony Brook Invitational, as well as winning two out of three matches in the Yale Invitational and the UConn Challenge. Three out of Yale’s five conference losses this season lasted five sets.
“I think we had some missed opportunities along the way,” Yale volleyball head coach Erin Appleman said in an interview with the News. “We were very young and hopefully we can, you know, not be young next season. Overall, we learned a lot and we’re just going to continue to get better. I am really proud of the effort we put out there.”
Like many other varsity teams, the Yale volleyball team overcame obstacles returning to in-person play following the pandemic. The young team included seven first years and four sophomores — all of whom lacked collegiate level experience until this year due to the pandemic.
“This was definitely a rebuilding year for our team,” Somera told the News. “COVID kind of switched up the dynamics a lot. It was a fun year and I think everyone was really grateful to be back and compete … but honestly, I don’t think anyone’s satisfied. I think a third place finish for us is a big motivator to just work hard in the spring, really go to the gym over the summer and then come back to take the title again.”
The team’s dynamics will inevitably continue to change with a shift in its upperclassman core and the graduation of players. This year’s seniors — captain and outside hitter Ellis DeJardin ’22, right-side hitter Ashley Dreyer ’22 and outside hitter Attar — have been key leaders in the team.
“All of them have contributed so much to this program,” Appleman said about the seniors. “Their dedication to this team and to all of their teammates has been fabulous.”
Prior to this year, the Blue and White had clinched three conference titles in a row. The Bulldogs were also voted as the favorites to win a championship this year in a pre-season poll by the Ivy League. The Yale volleyball team will head into next year with added experience, renewed vigor and hunger for victory, hoping to shake off the rust from this season.
“A goal every year is obviously to win,” Somera said to the News. “I think this year taught our team that we need to find a way to come together cohesively and play aggressively in every game we have regardless of who we are playing with … to just play Yale volleyball.”
The Yale volleyball team plays at the John J. Lee Amphitheatre.