This weekend, the Yale volleyball team will return to the friendly confines of the John J. Lee Amphitheater for the first time this season. The squad will be hosting the Yale Invitational, which will feature the last non-conference matches of the year.

The Bulldogs (5–1, 0–0 Ivy) have wrapped up two busy weeks on the road. On Sept. 2, the team traveled to Florida for the Seminole Volleyball Invitational and kicked off the season in triumphant fashion, winning the first two matches. Though they dropped their last match in the Sunshine State, a battle against Florida State, the Elis brought their strengths to New York the next week. The squad was dominant on the court and won the Syracuse Tournament, sweeping two opponents in the process.

“We just played really hard [last weekend] and strengthened our bond together,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “We put some really great stuff onto the court. The energy in the team has been very positive … it’s also about how good we’ve been playing, as well as the aggressiveness we are showing and the hard defense we’ve been throwing.”

The Yale Invitational will run from Sept. 16 to 17 and will air on ESPN+. On the first day of the tournament, the Bulldogs will face off against Villanova (3–6, 0–0 Big East) at 7 p.m. The last time both squads squared off was in September 2019, when the two were in California for the Trojan Invitational

On Saturday, the Blue and White will face Fordham (6–2, 0–0 Atlantic 10) and Sacred Heart (4–6, 0–0 NEC). Yale has never faced Fordham before, but will look to go full throttle against its new opponent. Despite having a losing overall record last year, the Rams have had a good start to this season, winning four of their five past games. Fordham also recently had success against another Ivy League team, sweeping Penn earlier this month in the Rose Hill Classic. The Elis will look to put a stop to their opponent’s momentum.

To wrap up the tournament, the Bulldogs will square off against a far more familiar adversary, facing Sacred Heart at 7 p.m. The Elis have played the Pioneers three times and won twice. The last time both opponents shared the court was in the 2019 Yale Invitational, where SHU was swept in a convincing victory, winning 27–25, 25–13 and 25–9.

At last year’s Yale Invitational, the Bulldogs had a strong performance, winning two of three games. This year, the team will look to continue its current momentum and improve upon its record to reach new heights. 

Cara Shultz ’25 will be one of the key contributors to this desired success. She was recognized as Player of the Week on Monday after a strong individual performance at the Syracuse Tournament, where she was named the event MVP. She recorded two double-doubles, and posted 35 kills, 10 aces and 41 digs.

“I am so excited to play at home,” Cara Shultz said about the upcoming weekend. “I know there are a lot of families coming up to watch the games this weekend. My family will be there. I’m just excited to play in front of a home group this time. It’s always super fun and super high energy. Everyone on the team is really excited.”

For the Elis, the tournament will be a welcome reprieve from the grind of away games and constant travel. After this weekend, the squad will not be playing at home again until mid-October.

Despite having already spent their first two weeks traveling to face opponents, the Blue and White will spend the next three weeks after their home invitational on the road as well. Yale will kick off the Ivy League season by playing five away games, the first of these taking place on Sept. 23 against reigning conference champion Brown (3–4, 0–0 Ivy).

“This upcoming weekend and our whole preseason schedule is all [about] playing the best competition that we can in anticipation for the regular season,” captain and setter Renee Shultz ’23 said. “We are traveling all over the place to play against great teams and programs. We are learning from those experiences … about what we are capable of and what we need to work on. … We are a goal-oriented team and we are working hard to be ready for Ivy play.”

Last season, the Bulldogs had a 6–4 record at home.

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.