Yale Athletics

The Yale women’s volleyball team (6–3, 1–0 Ivy) took on the Brown University Bears (9–2, 0–1 Ivy) at home this past Friday. 

The Bulldogs played their first conference game of the 2023 season after being selected as the preseason favorite to win the Ivy League, with the Princeton Tigers (5–5, 2–0 Ivy) and the Brown Bears not far behind.

The Bulldogs have faced dominant opponents already this season.  

Mila Yarich ’25 emphasized the need for consistency when the momentum of the game is not with the team.

“Our offense honestly remains the same,” Yarich said. “You can’t control the uncontrollables. You have to know when to be aggressive and when to be smart. These are big teams but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many of the same ways to score.”

The Brown Bears came out ready to dominate the Bulldogs, and in the first two sets, it seemed as though they would. The close first set saw the energetic Yale team battling for every point, but they could not rally enough to win, losing 25–23. In the second set, Mariia Sidorova’s 18 kills and Kate Sheire’s 17 kills for Brown seemed to silence the Bulldogs. Despite excellent rallies for the Blue and White, the bleak sets gave way to the opponent, and Brown won the second set 25–16.

After the first two sets, head coach Erin Appleman sat her players down and told them to return to the basics of the game.

“If you want to achieve greatness, you have to be great,” she said. “Simplify it. If your job is to pass, pass; if your job is to set, set. You have to concentrate on each point so you can do what you need to do.”

Taking their coach’s message to heart, the Bulldogs barked back in the third set, winning 25–23. The grit of the offense shined with the 13 kills of Ivy League Rookie of the Week Betsy Goodenow ’27 and 11 from Gigi Barr ’25. Most notably, the depth of the bench helped the team surge back, with substitutions like Laurece Abraham ’27, Arya Jue ’27 and Audrey Leak ’24 bringing energy to the court. 

Jue acted as a key substitution for the Bulldogs, shifting the momentum back to Yale.

“The team always has my back and there is a special bond on the court in which we are all able to trust each other when things get tough,” she said to the News. “The team energy toward the end was electric and just a super exciting environment to both watch and play in.”

In the fourth set, the Bears attempted to claw back but were held back by the Bulldogs’ defense. Barr and Goodenow fought the hits of Sidorova and Sheire, with a combined total of 11 blocks. Not far behind was Yarich, with 4 blocks alongside her 13 kills. Abraham had 4 key kills in the fourth set and the Blue and White took the next set 25–23.

Finally, in the fifth set, Brown’s hopes of ending the Bulldogs’ home winning streak faded with Goodenow’s 13th kill, ending the match with a set win 18–16. Thirteen players contributed to Yale’s win in their first five-match game of the season.

“I was most impressed by the team’s fight,” Appleman said to the News. “Plus, the depth of our substitutions gave us not just good points but more energy; they were able to lift us up. Resiliency is a part of our team culture.”

Appleman added that a “tough preseason” has helped the team succeed during the regular season.

She also told the News that she encourages fans to attend the high-intensity matches.

“We shared the title with Princeton last year, but we don’t plan to share again,” she said. “This is a big game you’ll want to watch!”

The Bulldogs host the Penn Quakers (2–10, 0–2 Ivy) and the Princeton Tigers at home this next weekend at the Payne White Gymnasium’s John J. Lee Amphitheatre.

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.