After a lengthy 12-game stretch on the road, the women’s volleyball team finally made its season debut at the Pizzitola Sports Center this weekend, as the Bears (8-6, 2-1 Ivy) secured two commanding conference wins against Cornell and Columbia.
“We had a really long preseason and we were away for a long time,” said Shirin Tooloee ’18. “The turnout was awesome. I don’t think we’ve ever had that many people at the games. I believe they made a difference in the game. It was good to know that we were supported, and we wanted to play for our school.”
With 352 fans in attendance eager to see their team at home for the first time this season, Bruno first took the court Friday against the Big Red (4-9, 0-3 Ivy).
“We actually had so much fun playing in front of our friends,” said Melissa Cairo ’18, who leads the Ivy League in digs per set and total digs. “Being able to get two wins at home was really great.”
With numerous supporters cheering them on, the Bears made a very impressive showing against Cornell. The Bears deftly handled the Big Red in the first and third sets of the match, eventually sweeping the visitors.
While Cornell took the first point of the match, the Bears would not allow their opponents to get on the scoreboard for much of the contest, and the squad quickly went on a 7-0 run in the early portion of the set. The Big Red did not have any blocks in the first set, struggling to put up a fight at the net. After trailing by as many as 15 points in the opening frame, Cornell ultimately fell in the 25-11 decision.
“We came out really strong,” Cairo said. “We had so much momentum from the first set that it just carried through rest of the game.”
In the second stanza, the Big Red attempted to redeem itself for its performance in the first set. Neither team had a lead larger than two points for most of the game, but the Bears ultimately withstood Cornell’s rally to claim the 25-23 win.
The third and final set of the match proceeded in a similar manner as the first — the Bears maintained a significant edge throughout the stanza and secured a 25-15 victory to complete the sweep.
Tooloee led the way for Bruno with a season-best and match-high 13 kills. Rookies Courtney Palm ’19 and Sabrina Stillwell ’19 also made significant contributions for Bruno at the net. The six-foot-one Palm recorded six blocks and converted each of her four swings into kills. Stillwell compounded on her teammates’ efforts with eight kills of her own.
Looking to reprise its performance from the day before, Bruno returned to the Pizzitola to take on Columbia (3-9, 1-2 Ivy) Saturday. But the contest proved to be much more challenging than the previous one for the Bears.
After claiming the first two sets of the match, the Lions were poised to sweep the Bears. Faced with a 22-17 deficit and a potential loss, Bruno rallied for five straight points to even the frame and eventually secured a 26-24 victory over Columbia.
In an impressive display of tenacity on both defense and offense, the Bears went on to win the next two sets to claim the match. Tooloee credited the entire team with the win.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Tooloee said. “We brought all of our energy together. The bench was really supportive. It was a tough win, but it was fun.”
While the victory was definitely a team effort, Stillwell’s performance Saturday evening was particularly noteworthy. The rookie posted 32 kills in the contest — the second-most in a single match in program history. Stillwell was just two kills shy of surpassing Maddie Lord ’15 for the record — one that Lord did not achieve until her senior season.
Stillwell “is a big part of our offense,” Tooloee said. “We were relying on her so much at the net.”
The Bears will hit the road again next weekend with matches against Harvard (6-7, 2-1) and Dartmouth (5-7, 2-1).