The competition within Ivy League volleyball proved to be incredibly stiff this season. Going into the final weekend of conference play, four of the Ancient Eight’s teams had viable chances of securing the conference title. Bruno (10-16, 4-10 Ivy) did not, but faced off against two of these teams, falling to both Dartmouth and Harvard to conclude the 2015 season.
The beginning of the campaign seemed promising for the Bears, as the squad finished its competition outside of the conference with the same amount of wins as losses. But Ivy play proved more challenging.
“There were moments when the team was frazzled and it was hard to gain composure,” said Rachele Killian ’16. “When you are in a league as evenly matched and competitive as ours, those minor lapses in composure can mean the game.”
A dominant Big Green squad presented the first test of the weekend for the Bears. As the conference’s leader in total kills and kills per set, Dartmouth (12-11, 9-5) posed a potent offensive threat to the Bears at the net.
The last time Bruno saw the Big Green in Hanover, the host swept. But the Bears were determined not to go down as easily the second time around.
“This weekend was so special because it was our last matches of the season,” Killian said. “We wanted to be better for each other, and we wanted to win.”
Bruno began the match in a commanding fashion. An early 1-1 score was the closest the visitors would get, as Bruno was able to maintain the lead for the entire set and claim the opening frame with a 25-19 win.
Not to be bested so easily, the Big Green made the second stanza incredibly close. There were 11 ties and three lead changes during the game, but Dartmouth ultimately came out on top. After also dropping the third set, the Bears rallied to claim the fourth and send the match to a decisive final game.
“We were very scrappy and resilient in long rallies,” Killian said. “That type of fight really reveals the heart that our team possesses. Performing well later in the match is a testament to our physicality and endurance. It’s a greater tribute to our collective passion for the game.”
Unfortunately for Bruno, the team could not win the tiebreaker and fell to Dartmouth.
Shirin Tooloee ’18 proved to be an offensive powerhouse in the contest, as she led Bruno at the net with a career-high 17 kills against the Big Green.
In the final match of the season the next night, the Bears faced off against the Crimson (14-10, 10-4). Prior to the match, the team’s four seniors — Carolyn Curran ’16, Killian, Shannon Frost ’16 and McKenna Webster ’16 — were honored for their contributions to the program.
“Playing volleyball with this team was the greatest privilege I could have imagined,” Killian said. “I’ll miss the girls. My teammates are remarkable people, and they inspire me on so many levels.”
As one of the teams involved in the four-way race for the conference title, the Crimson were hungry for a win. Their determination was obvious from the outset of the contest, as the visitors pushed an early lead to a 23-9 advantage in the opening stanza. While Bruno dropped the first set 25-15, the remaining three sets of the contest would not be decided by any more than five points.
Due to the tenacity that the team has displayed all season, the Bears were able to claim the second set and tie up the match.
Unfortunately for the Bears, the Crimson seemed to hit their stride in the third set, as the visitors used several lopsided rallies to distance themselves from the Bears and eventually win the sets and match. Each of the frames were 25-20 decisions.
In their final matches of collegiate volleyball, Frost and Killian each posted double-doubles with 12 kills and 13 digs, and 18 assists and 10 digs, respectively.
With the win over Brown, Harvard became one of the 2015 Ivy League co-champions. The Crimson shares the title with Princeton and will face off against the Tigers for the Ancient Eight’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. While Bruno finished the season in seventh place, Killian believes the team should still take pride in the season.
“I’m really proud of our team this year,” Killian said. “I am so grateful to the team and our coaches for the experience these past four years.”