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Volleyball's Ivy League opener ends with encouraging defeat in New Haven

Loss in first conference game gives Bears hope after hanging with defending champs

In contrast to its immense success at the Central Connecticut State University Invitational, the women’s volleyball team began its Ivy League schedule with a loss against Yale Friday in New Haven.

While Bruno (6-6, 0-1 Ivy) only claimed one set, the squad proved to be a strong competitor for the reigning Ivy co-champion, as all but one of the contest’s four sets were decided by four or fewer points. Bruno’s performance is indicative of the team’s improvement, as last season it was swept both times it met the Bulldogs (6-4, 1-0 Ivy).

For Payton Smith ’17, there were some positive aspects in the loss against Yale. “We played really well. … We did a really good job staying together and playing as a team,” Smith said. “If it was a point lost, we worked really hard and it wasn’t as if we just gave up the point.”

Looking to continue its streak of dominant play, the Bears came out strong against Yale. Though Bruno secured an early 8-5 advantage, neither team led by a margin larger than two points for the majority of the set. But four quick kills at the end of the set enabled the Elis to overtake the Bears and claim a 25-22 win in the first game.

Not to be bested, Bruno countered the Bulldogs in the second set with a 25-21 victory. The visitors punished Yale for its errors and managed to again secure an early lead.

This time, Bruno would not relinquish its advantage in spite of attempts by the Bulldogs. Defensive efforts from libero Melissa Cairo ’18 were significant in keeping the home team behind Bruno. Cairo recorded five of her match-high 21 digs in the set. Sabrina Stillwell ’19 also made significant contributions for the squad with her strong play at the net. The rookie posted six kills in the second stanza.

The last two sets were characterized by several uncontested runs that enabled the Bulldogs to ultimately defeat the Bears. The third set proved to be the most decisive, as Bruno fell by 10 points — its largest deficit in the entire contest. While Bruno managed to keep the final set much closer, Yale still claimed the 25-21 set and its first conference win of the season.

After the game this weekend, Smith believes that the team simply needs to  work on its skills in practice.

“The biggest thing we want to work on is constantly improving the skills that we have, to start doing more conditioning and work as hard as we possibly can,” Smith said. “We have the heart and the sort of teamwork to win games. We just need to work on skills and the wins will come.”

Up next, the Bears will host Cornell (4-7, 0-1 Ivy)  and Columbia (3-7, 1-0 Ivy) over the weekend in the team’s first games at the Pizzitola Sports Center this season.

Smith said she believes being at home will be beneficial for the team’s confidence. “Being on our home court for the first time this season will be exciting and thrilling — especially for the first-years and seniors,” she said. “It’s great to be at home and have your friends’ support and a crowd you know.”


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