Volleyball ends losing streak with victory over Columbia

Bears recover from loss to Cornell, earn first conference victory against Columbia Saturday

contributing writer
Monday, October 9, 2017

The volleyball team fell one set to three against Cornell Friday but rallied the next day to break a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over Columbia. Courtney Palm ’19, Melissa Cairo ’18 and Makena Ehlert ’20 made large individual contributions over the weekend, and Head Coach Diane Short praised her team for its offensive balance and the trust teammates had in one another.

On Friday, though Bruno (6-10, 1-4 Ivy) took a tight first set 26-24, a defensively scrambled second set put the Bears behind Cornell (6-8, 2-3) for the rest of the match. Bruno entered the fourth set down 2-1, but battled the Big Red to 24-24 down the stretch. But the Bears slipped in the last two rallies to drop the match. Outside hitters Ehlert, Sabrina Stillwell ’19 and Shirin Tooloee ’18 combined for more than half of Bruno’s total kills with eight apiece.

The next day, Bruno dramatically improved against the Columbia Lions (5-9, 0-5). “The best thing about this match is (that) we had a balanced offense, and we haven’t had that in a couple weeks,” Short said. “Defensively, less collisions than last match.”

Cairo and Ehlert lead Bruno’s defense with 18 and 16 digs respectively, making competitive diving plays to thwart many of Columbia’s attack attempts. Their hard work, in turn, gave Brown the opportunity to execute textbook bump-set-spike sequences.

“Tonight was really good on setting and passing,” said Palm. The middle blocker led the team with 14 kills and a .410 hitting percentage. “Our team vibe was really good. We were communicating well, too.”

This communication resulted in many successful Bruno attacks, which stymied the Lion defense. Columbia lost a significant number of rallies on uncontrolled dig attempts that went out of bounds or prevented the Lions from setting up a proper offensive attack.

In the second set, Bruno turned a slow start into a five-point streak that set the tone for most of the match. Bruno did not trail Columbia until the Lions took the lead at 19-18, at which point attack errors and small missteps culminated in the Bears losing the set, with the game tied at one set apiece.

Between the second and third game, Bruno had the opportunity to refocus in the locker room. “I talked a lot about trusting their teammates,” Short said. “I told them, ‘Trust in each other.’”

And trust they did. Catching up after a 6-3 Columbia lead, the Bears did not look back, winning the third set 25-12 on the momentum of two five-point streaks and a seven-point streak to finish.

This time around, the team focused on maintaining the momentum from the win. “We were saying at the end of the third game, pretend that it was a time out, and that we were just going to keep grinding,” Palm said.

Though Bruno did not have the same point-streaks in the fourth set as in the third, after tying at 4-4, the team never trailed Columbia and clinched the match with a decisive 25-14 victory.

When asked how the first conference win felt, Palm said, “We’ve definitely been waiting on this one for a while, and it feels really good to finally get that. … We’re really happy things are finally gelling.”

Short echoed Palm’s sentiments. “They know what they are now, and they will repeat it,” she said.

Bruno’s next match is away at Harvard Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.