Volleyball pulls out gutsy five-game win, goes 2-1 on weekend

Monday, September 26, 2005

After struggling early in the season, the volleyball team came into its own over the weekend, winning its last two matches at home in the Brown Invitational, including a five-game victory over Stony Brook University. Tri-captains Leigh Martin ’06 and Lauren Gibbs ’06 were both named to the All-Tournament Team in recognition of their contributions to Brown’s performance.

“We played well, we’re really starting to come together,” said Head Coach Diane Short. “We definitely have improved.”

The Bears’ final match of the weekend against Stony Brook proved to be the most thrilling. Playing for the third time in two days, Brown took the first two games by scores of 30-27 and 30-22. Needing just one more game to end the match, the Bears’ exhaustion became a factor, as Stony Brook refused to go away. The Seawolves broke a 16-16 tie in Game 3 with a 7-1 run. Then, after the Bears cut the lead to 24-21, Stony Brook rattled off six straight points to clinch the 30-21 victory.

The margin may have been shorter in the fourth game, but the score was not indicative of the action – the Bears quickly fell into a 10-3 hole and were never able to get closer than four, falling 30-22 and sending the match to a decisive fifth game.

“We got tentative and let up a bit, and then we got frustrated,” said tri-captain Shawn Tulac ’07.

Going the distance for the first time this season, all the momentum seemed to be against Brown at the start of the fifth game. However, the Bears dug down, trading points with Stony Brook until they reached an 11-11 stalemate. Brown then scored three straight points off two kills by Julie Mandolini-Trummel ’08 and one by Gibbs, putting the Bears at match point.

Again, the Seawolves would not go away. Stony Brook scored two more points to make the score 14-13. With the tension in the gym rising by the second, the Bears finally put the match away after Martin set up Gibbs for a thunderous kill and the 15-13 victory.

“It really seemed like they had a lot more fighting spirit in that match,” Short said. “They could easily have given up in that match. For them to push through their exhaustion is a great sign.”

The Bears had four players post double-digit kills, including Tulac, who had a double-double with 22 kills and 16 digs. Mandolini-Trummel also play-ed well, recording 21 kills. Martin, meanwhile, set a career milestone, moving into fourth place in school history with 83 career aces. She also posted 73 assists in the match, breaking the season-high of 61 that she set earlier in the day against Manhattan College.

The 3-2 victory is a promising sign for the Bears, who last season dropped three Ivy League contests in the fifth game.

“I think it’s important that we won that game,” Tulac said. “Last year we went to five in a lot of games and lost.”

In addition to showing improvement from last year, the Bears also showed that they have grown in this short season when they defeated Manhattan 3-1 earlier on Saturday. Two weeks ago, Brown lost to the Jaspers 3-1.

“We played this team two weeks ago and lost, so we came out wanting to take the win,” Tulac said. “It was almost like batting practice, we went up and swung away.”

After the first game of Saturday’s match, the Jaspers probably should have gone to the bullpen. The Bears absolutely dominated, taking a 12-1 lead, and eventually leading by as many as 15. Looking timid and uncomfortable, the Jaspers mounted little defense as Brown rolled over them with a 30-9 shellacking.

“They couldn’t stop our hitters,” Martin said. “We were getting one-on-one blocks, which you don’t see much.”

The Jaspers responded from the beating by coming out much sharper in the second game, playing Brown to a 24-24 tie. The Bears did themselves no favors in letting the game slip away, making errors on five straight points to give Manhattan a 29-24 lead, essentially sealing the 30-25 loss.

“Our coach said that when you embarrass a team by that score they are like a wounded animal that will come back stronger,” Martin said. “We may have taken them a little too lightly.”

The Bears did not make the same mistake again, taking game three by a score of 30-26. The clinching contest was much tenser, as there were 11 ties. Brown came dangerously close to losing the match, trailing 28-26 before notching four straight points to claim the win.

Offensively and defensively, the Bears were led by Gibbs, who recorded 22 kills and a .474 hitting percentage. She also had a match-high four blocks. Katie Lapinski ’08 also played well, notching 26 digs.

The lone disappointment for Bruno came on Friday night, when the Bears were swept 3-0 by No. 18 Santa Clara University. The highlight of that match for the Bears was the third game, in which Bruno fell in an 11-5 hole, cut the lead to 17-16 and held the lead as late as 28-27. Unfortunately, the Broncos, led by Tournament MVP Anna Cmaylo, were too much for Brown, stealing the 30-28 victory and recording the sweep.

With the non-conference part of its schedule now complete, the team will begin Ivy play on Friday, traveling to New Haven, Conn. to take on Yale, who shared the league title with Cornell, Harvard and Princeton in 2004.

“I really feel that we can win the league,” Short said. “We have gained a lot more confidence in the last week.”

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