VOLLEYBALL: Bulldogs secure Ivy title after dominant season, prep for NCAA tourney
After capping off one of their most decorated seasons in Bulldog history, Yale’s volleyball team will face off against fifth-seeded UCF this weekend in State College, Pennsylvania.
June Sun, Contributing Photographer
After losing just one conference matchup all season, the Yale volleyball team (23–2, 13–1 Ivy) dominated the Ivy League tournament to secure the 12th conference title in school history.
The Bulldogs swept Dartmouth College (16–9, 8–6 ) in the first round to advance to the finals, where they matched up against Brown University (15–10, 10–4), who had just upset Princeton University (21–4, 13–1) with a first round sweep of their own. The Blue and White beat Brown in four sets to claim not only an Ivy League championship but also a ticket to the NCAA tournament. The win capped off one of the most decorated seasons in Yale volleyball history.
“Words can’t describe how proud I am of this team,” wrote captain Renee Shultz ’23. “Since the very beginning of the season, all the way back in the summer, we established team goals and ever since then we’ve been working hard to achieve them. Now that we’ve earned our Ivy League championship and are heading to the NCAAs to represent Yale, I’m so excited to see what else we’re capable of.”
In the opening round of the Ivy Tournament, the Big Green proved to be no match for the Bulldogs, failing to reach even 20 points in any of the three sets. Mila Yarich ’25 — who ranked in the top eight in the Ivy League in aces, digs, kills and points scored all season — led the Bulldogs with three aces and 14 digs. Yarich’s nine kills ranked second on the team for the game.
While many expected a Yale-Princeton matchup in the finals, as the two teams split their regular-season matchups and went undefeated against the rest of the league, the Bulldogs instead met the Bears in the final. On Friday, Brown stunned the Tigers in three highly competitive sets and knocked Princeton out of the tournament.
On Saturday, Brown opened the finals on a 5–0 run, carrying over their moment from their upset victory. However, the Bulldogs roared back to win the set by a 25–21 margin. They won the second set by the same score, but the Bears refused to back down, winning a hard-fought third set 27–25. The Blue and White closed things out in the fourth, however, as they took an early 7–1 lead and never looked back.
Gigi Barr ’25 — with 17 kills and six blocks — and Carly Diehl ’25 — with 43 assists, 16 digs and two aces — led the way for the Bulldogs in the final, allowing them to host the championship banner on Yale’s home floor.
In addition to conference bragging rights, the win also clinched a berth in the NCAA volleyball tournament. After losing only two games all year, and only once since Sep. 3, Yale looks to be one of the best Ivy League teams in recent history. No Ivy League school has won an NCAA tournament game since Penn defeated Army in the first round in 2009. No Ivy team has even won a set since Harvard University lost 3–1 in 2016.
Yale will play the University of Central Florida (27–1, 19–1 AAC) in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“Making the tourney is kind of like a dream come true,” Cara Shultz ’25 said. “I mean it’s what we’ve spent all season preparing for, and in terms of morale and what this means for the program, it’s huge. Our team is so excited to compete on the largest stage, and it’ll be a blast. I’m so proud of what this team has done so far and I’m excited to continue playing with this team.”
The fifth-seeded Knights are favored to win the game as they enter the matchup on a 15-game winning streak and rank in the top five in the nation in assists per set, hitting percentage and kills per set.
However, the Bulldogs seem to be the perfect foil for UCF, as they allow the fifth lowest opponent’s hitting percentage in the country. They will also try to pick up some easier points on their serve, as Yale ranks third in the nation in aces per set.
“We’re a good defensive team which makes it hard for people to score against us,” said head coach Erin Appleman. “Maile Somera, our libero, is really good, both of our outsides, Mila Yarich and Cara Shultz, are really talented in the back row.”
Knights head coach Todd Dagenais expressed confidence in his team’s ability heading into the tournament, as he believes that his team has the ability to make a deep run in their fifth consecutive tournament appearance.
Ahead of the match, Dagenais explained that he was pleased to see Yale as UCF’s first-round opponent.
“We love this draw,” Dagenais told Nicholson Student Media. “I think it’s a great draw, especially in terms of travel, keeping in our own time zone and, you know, teams that we feel like we’re really competitive with. So I don’t think we could have asked for a better draw as a five-seed.”
If the Bulldogs manage to pull off the upset against the red hot Knights, they would face the winner of UMBC (17–8, 7–3 America East) and Penn State (24–7, 13–7 Big 10).
Yale and UCF will face off at 5:00 p.m. on Friday evening in State College, Penn.