On the familiar floor of the Pizzitola Center, the volleyball team split the 2011 Brown Invitational championship title last weekend with University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The Bears (4-7) took two of three matches, dropping a heartbreaker to UMES (5-5) but besting in-state rival Bryant University (5-9) as well as Fordham University (3-9).
"This weekend we showed ourselves how great of team we can be when we all work together," said libero and co-captain Annika Gliottone '12. "I think the biggest thing for us — over the course of preseason and these past few tournaments — has been getting used to playing with each other."
In the first match, the Bears jumped out to an early two-set lead against Fordham in front of a raucous home crowd, as outside hitters Maddie Lord '15 and Emma Pastore '14 led a vicious offense with 20 and 18 kills, respectively. Bruno rebounded from dropping the third set 27-25 and clinched the match with a comeback 25-21 win in the fourth set. Setter Alexandra Rieckhoff '14 posted a season-high 58 assists in the match. Rieckhoff and Lord were selected for the all-tournament team.
Bruno's fortunes took a turn for the worse in the second match against UMES. The Bears took the first two sets of the first-to-three match but could not put the Hawks away in the third set. Led by the offensive prowess of Saitaua Iosia and Maline Vaitai, the Hawks came roaring back, winning the final three sets by scores of 25-23, 25-16 and 15-11.
The Bears did not make the same mistake twice, dominating the Bulldogs and sweeping the match in straight sets.
"Winning in three against Bryant was a big step for us as a team," Gliottone said. "Our offense put the ball away at crucial times, and our defense kept the balls from hitting the floor. We had a lot of positive energy out on the court, which enabled us to communicate better with each other."
The most dramatic plays of the match came in the third set, as Bryant rallied to tie the score at 24-all. But the Bears got big plays out of Lord and middle blocker Taylor Bantle '15, both of whom notched kills on the final two points to clinch the set and match.
Lord and Bantle "have a positive attitude and willingness to learn new things," Gliottone said. "They work really hard in practice, and it pays off in the matches."
Rieckhoff tallied another 27 assists in the match, while Gliottone chipped in 23 digs.
The Bears are back in action Saturday as they travel to Yale for a 4 p.m. game.