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Volleyball sweeps weekend with strong five-set wins

Lord ’14 reaches offensive milestone as Bears secure victories over Columbia, Cornell

After a series of close conference losses, the volleyball team bounced back nicely this weekend, taking down Columbia and Cornell in five-set thrillers. The Bears (8-11, 3-4 Ivy) had lost three of their last four contests in a deciding fifth set, but were able to overcome their recent misfortunes and get back on track in Ivy League play.

“It’s pretty exiting that we won both of those,” said Maddie Lord ’15. “The past couple of weekends we’ve lost in those situations. It’s pretty heartbreaking to be on the other side of things, and to have the momentum shift to our team is pretty great.”

It was an impressive all-around effort from Bruno, who had a variety of players make significant contributions in the two victories. In the team’s first match against Columbia (7-8, 3-3), Payton Smith ’17 led the way with a stellar 0.552 hitting percentage and a match-high 20 kills. The Bears also received strong efforts from Lord and Brittany Link ’15, who connected on 14 and 13 kills, respectively.

Head Coach Diane Short was quick to point out that the return home may have been just what the Bears needed to lift them to victory.

“There’s a big difference playing home and away. I certainly thought the crowd helped us,” Short said. “This team has been fighting hard all year and just having that little edge with the crowd in our favor always helps.”

The crowd didn’t have much trouble getting involved Friday night, as the match was an exhilarating back-and-forth affair. The two teams split the first four sets, and, once again, Bruno found itself heading to a decisive fifth frame.

The Bears struck early in the final set, jumping out to a 7-2 lead. Yet the Lions didn’t let the lead last for long, crawling their way back to a 10-10 tie. It seemed all too familiar for Bruno at this point, but they were determined to write a different script this time around.

After fighting to take a 14-13 lead, the Bears didn’t capitalize on three match points, and quickly found themselves on the brink of another loss. But after staving off two match points from the Lions, Bruno finally broke through on their fifth match point of the night and took home the 21-19 victory. It was a sigh of relief for the Bears, who were grateful to finally be on the winning side of a close game.

“It was just our time to win,” said Shirin Tooloee ’18. “After losing two really hard five-set matches, we were done with that. It was our time to win now.”

Saturday’s match couldn’t quite live up to the drama-filled victory of the night before, but it was no slouch in itself. Bruno was able to capture another five-set win, this time defeating Cornell (3-14, 0-7). After her solid performance against Columbia, Lord led the team with 18 kills, recording her 1,000th career spike in the process.

“It means a lot,” said Lord about the achievement. “I’ve been working really hard my whole four years here to contribute to this team.”

The Bears found help in other places too, most notably in the defensive play of Kathryn Conner ’15, who recorded 28 digs just a day after she set her season-high of 31 against Columbia. Sarah Lucenti ’17 also played a large part in the win with 34 assists, while Tooloee contributed 14 kills.

And just like the day before, the match came down to the wire. Bruno built an early lead in the final set, but once again had trouble finishing off its opponent. After failing to secure a win after the first match point, the Bears continued to battle and eventually came out on top, winning by a score of 16-14 in the last frame.

The two wins mark a step in the right direction for the Bears, who can now put their late-game woes behind them as the season moves on.

“It will definitely make us more confident and hopefully help us bring home some more wins, especially on the road,” Link said.

The Bears will now get ready to take on Yale (10-6, 6-1) on Oct. 24 and hope to avenge their loss to the Elis earlier in the season. The Bulldogs have won five matches in a row, having only lost one set during the streak.

It may be a tough matchup, but Short is enthusiastic about the direction the team is moving.

“It’s nice to have the confidence of a couple wins, we have three wins now in league,” she said. “We have to keep moving forward, keep working at improving.”


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