Yale Athletics

The Yale volleyball team (23–3, 13–1 Ivy) closed out a record-breaking season after the Bulldogs lost in Friday’s first round of the NCAA tournament.

On their way to 23 wins, the Bulldogs won a school-record 17 games in a row, claimed an Ivy League championship and clinched the program’s eighth NCAA tournament berth. Yale traveled to State College, Pennsylvania to face off fifth-seed University of Central Florida in the first round of the tournament. The match culminated in a 3–0 Yale loss.

“This was one of my favorite teams to be a part of,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “The team was just all in all the time and really played hard all season long. They are a very gritty team and it was just a pleasure to coach them. I am super proud of them.”

Yale and UCF entered the match as leaders in national statistics. On one hand, Yale was in the top five nationally in terms of opponent hitting percentage and aces per set. On the other hand, UCF ranked top five in the nation in hitting percentage, assists per set and kills per set.

Appleman told the News that the team approached the game differently given the skillset present at the NCAA level. She noted that the tournament compiles 64 of the best teams in the nation, but she thought that Yale “handled the pressure really well and did a good job.”

“I thought our team played really tough,” said Appleman. “It was a battle and I was really proud of our efforts. I think UCF is a pretty good team and so that’s one of the reasons we weren’t victorious, but we felt that we fought hard.”

Audrey Leak ’24 started off the first set with a kill before UCF responded with a kill of their own. After the teams exchanged points, Yale fell behind 3–4 and could not win back the lead for the rest of the set. The Bulldogs trailed by as many as six points but then clawed back to a two point deficit before UCF scored the winning point. The first set score was 25–22.

UCF started the second set off with a three point run and rode its momentum to a 25–15 victory. The Knights’ offense maintained their form in the third set as they started it with a five point run and closed out the match with a 25–17 score in the last frame.

UCF star McKenna Melville, who won her second player of the year award in the American Athletic Conference, led the Knights with 14 kills and 15 digs.

“McKenna, as well as the rest of their team really, is a very talented player and it was fun to play against her,” said Cara Shultz ’25. “Our team came out and we fought and at the end of the day we gave it our all.”

Leak and Cara Shultz each landed 10 kills while Maile Somera ’24 had 13 digs. Carly Diehl ’25 earned 36 assists, and Fatima Samb ’25 and Mila Yarich ’25 both had two blocks.

Appleman explained that even though she would have liked to see the Bulldogs advance to the NCAA, she feels that the team “did everything [they] possibly could and represented Yale and the Ivy League well.”

Appleman emphasized that the team has a series of goals throughout the season. First and foremost, the Bulldogs aim to win the Ivy League Championship. After that, the Bulldogs want to enter the NCAA tournament and win.

“Looking back on everything we have accomplished this fall, I couldn’t be more proud of this team” said captain Renee Shultz ’23. “We have worked so hard day in and day out, and we’ve seen our hard work pay off with the regular season Ivy championship, the Ivy League Tournament championship, and making it to the NCAA tournament to represent Yale. It’s been a great run and such a memorable season.”

Appleman has served as head coach of the Yale volleyball team since 2003 and led the team to 11 championships.

Nicole Rodriguez currently serves as a Science and Technology editor for the Yale Daily News. She previously covered the Astronomy Department, intramurals and Crew as a staff reporter. Originally from New York, she is a sophomore in Benjamin Franklin majoring in economics.
Henry Frech is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College majoring in history and hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah. He covers volleyball and women's basketball for the YDN. This semester, he is studying abroad in Mérida, Mexico.