The Yale women’s volleyball team (4–2, 0–0 Ivy) emerged as the dominant team in their home opener, the Yale Invitational, at the John J. Lee Amphitheater inside the Payne Whitney Gymnasium last weekend.
Coming off their inaugural tournament at West Point the previous weekend, with losses to High Point (6–3, 0–0 Big South) and Liberty University (7–2, 0–0 ASUN), the Bulldogs looked to improve their record with games against Sacred Heart (1–7, 0–0 NEC), the University of Rhode Island (1–9, 0–0 A10) and the University of Connecticut (4–5, 0–0 Big East).
Head Coach Erin Appleman told the News the team returned for their home opener after hard weeks of practice.
“They’ve been working really hard in practice for about two weeks, so I think that’s been really good — the practices have been really intense and they’re all getting better, which is what you hope for as a coach,” she said.
Yale began their homestand against Sacred Heart, the Northeastern Conference preseason favorite, with a timid win during the first set of 25–20. The Pioneers battled back against the Bulldogs to win a close second set 27–25, but Yale quickly took care of business in the next two sets, 25–17 and 26–24. Isabella Mendoza ’26 landed 12 kills, just behind the season-high 14 kills of Betsy Goodenow ’27. Halle Sherlock ’26 came up with two digs in the fourth set to lead the team to victory.
The Bulldogs made quick work of Rhode Island, winning their first match on Saturday 3–0. The Rams found their swings halted by Gigi Barr’s ’25 six blocks. Meanwhile, the University of Rhode Island team’s defensive efforts did not faze Goodenow, who again led the team with 10 kills. This marked her third game with at least 10 kills, a fiery start for the first year.
In both matches against Sacred Heart and Rhode Island, the Yale volleyball team posted hitting averages above .300.
Mendoza said the key to hitting well is confidence and preparation; she also noted the importance of a short-term memory.
“The team does a great job of resetting and taking it one point at a time,” she said. “Teams going on runs are a part of the game, but we focus on controlling what we can on our side of the net.”
The weekend ended with the feature match against the University of Connecticut as Yale looked to even their all-time record at 2–2. The match began with a tense win for UConn, 25–20. Mya Ayro led the Huskies with 16 kills. However, the Bulldogs rallied back shortly, taking the second game 25–23. In an all-Connecticut battle, emotions ran high and fans held their breath.
Finally, with the 13 kills from Barr, the Blue and White put an end to the Huskies, taking sets three and four 25–23 and 25–19, respectively. Diehl reached her 2,000th assist milestone to help keep Handsome Dan the supreme Connecticut dog.
The homestand was a chance to show the dominance of the Bulldogs’ roster, which does not end with just the players on the court. In all three games, Head Coach Erin Appleman substituted new players, each one contributing just as much to the game as the player before her.
The Rhode Island game saw first year Jaidynn Perkins-Martin ’27 get her first career rally.
“Stepping into the jersey for the first time was a surreal experience, especially for the first home game,” Perkins-Martin said. “Seeing the lights dim is a crazy experience and a dream come true to finally be able to put the jersey on.”
She said she has also seen herself improve through the mentorship of the other players, the coaching staff and the team’s captain, Maile Somera ’24.
Somera has been instrumental in the team’s success, posting 27 digs and nine assists this season alone.
“Maile has done a great job leading the team and she does a great job keeping everyone motivated. She’s a great leader on and off the court,” Perkins-Martin said to the News. “Playing with such amazing players from all over the country has definitely helped me get better and grow as a player. Our amazing coaching staff has also helped with all the feedback they give at practices.”
The Bulldogs look to extend their four-game win streak in Chicago next weekend, facing the Northwestern Wildcats (5–3, 0–0 B10) and the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (2–6, 0–0 A10).