Yale Athletics

This past weekend, the Yale Bulldogs women’s volleyball team (1–2, 0–0 Ivy) opened their season at the Black Knights Invitational in West Point, New York.  

The reigning Ivy League Champions sought to extend their dominance to the 2023 season, facing High Point (4–3, 0–0 Big South), Liberty University (6–0, 0–0 ASUN) and Army West Point (1–5, 0–0 Patriot). Head coach Erin Appleman spoke to the News about her team’s first weekend.

“We were just really excited to be able to play someone in a different color,” Appleman said. “I think that was really important for us to see where we were and what we needed to work on. I think we’re still trying to figure out the lineup, so I think the energy was really high and the team was really excited to travel to Army to play High Point, Liberty and Army.”

The opening game saw the Bulldogs take on the reigning Big South Champions, the High Point Panthers, on Friday, Sept. 1. Captain Maile Somera ’24 began her senior season with a career high of 27 digs and first-year Betsy Goodenow ’27 excelled with 11 kills and 2 blocks. Despite battling to win the first set, the Bulldogs fell to the Panthers 3–1. Dylan Maberry, a senior Panther, had a career-high 25 kills in the match.

Goodenow, the standout in the High Point game, said she was just excited to play.  

“It was amazing to wear the Yale jersey and to represent the University,” Goodenow said. “It was also good to play against tough competition and see how we measured up. Even though the High Point loss was tough, I think the team took it as an opportunity to learn and get better.”

The next day, the Bulldogs faced the undefeated Liberty Flames and their returning ASUN Setter of the Year, Delaney Dilfer. Despite winning the first set 26–24, the Elis failed to extinguish the Flames, who rallied back to take the game, 3–1. The Flames would go 3–0 in the tournament with wins against Army and High Point, claiming the 2023 Black Knights Invitational title. Notably, both Audrey Leak ’24 and Mila Yarich ’25 posted 12 kills, while Carly Diehl ’25 proved a key player in keeping the battle close with 8 kills, 2 aces and 1 block. Diehl was named to the All-Tournament Team.

The first victory of the season for the Bulldogs came in their match against the Army Black Knights on Sunday, Sept. 3. In a dominant first two sets, Yarich came out swinging with 17 kills. Leak had 10 kills and Fatima Samb ’25 had 7 blocks to aid in a successful 2–0 start. The Knights then fought back to extend the match with a 25–19 win of the third set. However, Goodenow put an end to the Knights’ comeback with one of 8 kills for the final point.  

Going into Sunday, Somera emphasized the team’s need to improve every day, regardless of outcome. 

“Win or lose,” she said, “you have to attack the next match with a fresh mindset and have confidence in your preparation.”  

During the tournament, the 2022 second-team All-Ivy player surpassed the 1000th dig mark of her career.  

Erin Appleman is celebrating 20 years as women’s volleyball’s head coach, and the 2022 Ivy League Coach of the Year returns with hopes based on improvement, not on tangible success.

“For me, I always want to be the most improved team. We’re just trying to get better every day,” Appleman said. “Obviously the team has goals of winning the Ivy League Championship again, but for me, it’s much more about our performance on the court every single night and playing at a consistently high level.”

She stressed that the team’s hard work in practice and their energy on the court has continued to match her expectations as a coach.

The Bulldogs re          turn to the court this weekend at the Yale Invitational, hosting Sacred Heart (0–4, 0–0 NEC), Rhode Island (1–5, 0–0 A10), and the University of Connecticut (2–4, 0–0 Big East).

Meredith Henderson covers women's basketball and field hockey. She is a first-year in Saybrook College from Keller, Texas. She plays varsity softball and is majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing.