After winning its first two games of the season, the Yale volleyball team is looking to build on their momentum at the Syracuse tournament this weekend.
Last weekend, the Yale volleyball team (2-1, 0-0 Ivy) kicked off its season in impressive fashion at the Seminole Volleyball Invitational in Tallahassee, Florida.
The Bulldogs won their first two games of the season. On Friday, the Blue and Whites shrugged off their preseason rust with a 3-1 win over Florida A&M (0-7, 0-0 SWAC). On the same day, Yale continued their momentum and swept James Madison University (4–2, 0–0 CAA). However, the Bulldogs faltered against tournament host Florida State (6–1, 0–0 ACC) on Saturday, losing 0–3.
“Our cohesion was good,” volleyball head coach Erin Appleman said of the team’s performance at Sunshine State. “I thought our trust in each other was good. What we need to improve are just a few tactical things here and there.
All teams in the invite were first-time opponents for the Bulldogs. This misunderstanding was evident in the Elis’ first set against the Rattlers, which Yale dropped 28–26 after a fierce extra-point battle. However, the Bulldogs were able to bounce back and tame the Rattlers in the following sets, which featured increasingly wide point margins between the two teams.
Yale won their next three sets 25–23, 25–15 and 25–13. The Blue and Whites finished the game with a .308 hit percentage, while limiting their opponents to a .145. As was the case last year, the Bulldogs continued their service line dominance, producing 11 aces in the game against the Rattlers.
“I think Florida A&M’s win was pretty significant,” Appleman said. “It got us back, and we got better as the game went on. The scoreline reflected that and I was really proud that we overcame our nervousness in our first game and were able to get the win.
Shining bright with their first win of 2022, the Bulldogs entered Game 2 of the day with confidence. With only a few hours off between games, Yale emerged victorious in their match against JMU, completing their first sweep of the season. After establishing an early lead in the first set, the Bulldogs never looked back, winning 25–13, 25–13 and 25–16 over the Dukes. The Elis outplayed their opponents in every offensive category and hit .474.
On Sunday, the Blue & Whites lost to the fearsome Florida State Seminoles, a competitive team that ranks among the best in the ACC Power Five. In the ACC’s preseason poll, FSU was chosen to finish fifth in the 15-team conference. Although the Bulldogs showed their mettle, the hosts snapped Yale’s six-game winning streak by losing 25–15, 25–11 and 25–11.
The Bulldogs wrapped up a great weekend in Florida as the second-best team in the Seminole Invitational. They were able to better integrate new players, improve their teamwork and solidify their fundamentals for conference games. As a team, the Elis had 130 kills, 110 assists and 18 ace serves last weekend. There were also plenty of standout performances, like that of ’25 Cara Shultz, who had 15 kills against Florida A&M and hit .389 against JMU.
“Go in [last] weekend we had some good practice,” Shultz said when asked about her individual performance. “It’s a really good feeling to show that [the practices] really pay off. Working hard with a different girl group is always a challenge in pre-season, but I think we did a really good job teaming up well. Everyone put in good stats this weekend and I’m not surprised [about that] because we’ve all worked pretty hard.
Setter Carly Diehl ’25 and center hitter Gigi Barr ’25 were named to the All-Star Team of the Tournament due to their outstanding individual contributions to the Elis’ success.
Barr, who missed much of last season through injury, had 27 kills and hit .345 last weekend, while Diehl had 96 assists, 25 digs and 14 kills.
“Carly had a really good offense and our transition volleyball was spectacular,” Appleman said. “Gigi was just always in the middle and getting a lot of sets. She also had a fabulous one-weekend completion percentage and continues to improve.
However, Appleman expressed pride in the team’s overall high level of play, saying she “was thrilled with everyone who played [last] weekend.” She also pointed to the performances of Shultz, as well as outside hitters Mila Yarich ’25 and Audrey Leak ’24, adding that the three of them could also have been named to the All-Tournament team.
This weekend, the Bulldogs will look to build on their early successes as they travel to New York for the Syracuse tournament, where they will face familiar teams. Yale will open the tournament with a game against Army (2-5, 0-0 Patriot), a team against which the Bulldogs have won in each of their last four meetings. That same day, the Elis will seek revenge against bitter rival Syracuse (3–3, 0–0 ACC), a team that broke the Bulldogs’ perfect record in 2018 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and won against Yale. twice in the past. On Saturday, the Blue and Whites will face Hofstra (2-5, 0-0 CAA). Although Yale have won their last two games against Pride, the last time the two teams met was in 2009.
“Syracuse is going to be a huge test of adaptability,” said central blocker Fatima Samb ’25. “We have learned exactly what needs to be done from the FSU tournament and now we have a few days of practice to turn things around. We’ll face more amazing teams in this tournament, and we’re super excited to play and show what we’ve got.
Game 1 of the Syracuse Tournament against the Black Knights is Friday, September 9 at 2:00 p.m.