After kicking off the season in New England, the volleyball team made a cross-country trip to the University of San Francisco for a tournament over the weekend. While the team dropped all three contests, the experience playing tougher competition is likely to help it further down the road.
“Our effort in all of the games was really great,” said libero Melissa Cairo ’18. “We definitely gave some very talented teams a tough game.”
The Bears got things started on Friday night by taking on a strong UC Santa Barbara side. The Gauchos, which are receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Poll, raced off to a eight-point lead in the first set and never looked back. After losing the first by a final tally of 25-18, Bruno struggled in the second set but came out strong in the last. The Bears kept the score close at the start but eventually fell by four points.
Despite the eventual loss, the team fought valiantly during each possesion.
“I think we figured out how to fight and come back against some really tough teams,” Cairo said.
Bruno was led by Sarah Lucenti ’17 and Sabrina Stillwell ’19, who recorded 15 assists and seven kills, respectively. Cairo added 10 digs.
Saturday, the Bears played a doubleheader against the host, Dons, and St. John’s. The first match was a competitive affair, as the Dons narrowly won the first set, 30-28. The following set was more of the same, leaving Bruno just two points short of victory again, falling 25-23. The Bears’ fortunes began to change in the next frame, as they emerged victorious with their first set of the weekend. But the squad could not keep up the momentum and ultimately lost the match after dropping the last set 25-19.
Stillwell was dominant at the net once again, leading the team in kills with 14. Makena Ehlert ’20 also contributed with eight kills and seven digs. Also notable was Cairo’s impressive serving, as she tallied two aces.
The afternoon contest got off to a rough start for the Bears, as they fell 25-7 in the first set against the Red Storm. Bruno looked to be in far better form in the following sets, losing by the minimum two in each. Unfortunately for the Bears, despite staying competitive, the team left the weekend without a win.
Stillwell, Shirin Tooloee ’18 and Payton Smith ’17 combined for 14 kills in the match. Defensive specialist Francie Holte ’19 recorded 10 digs.
Smith “has had to switch to a new position, and I thought she handled the transition really well,” Cairo said. “Also, each of our freshman contributed, which was very exciting.”
This weekend, the Bears will continue play at home as they host their very own Brown Invitational. Bruno will square off against Binghamton, Central Connecticut and New Mexico State.
The team hopes to get a win in front of a home crowd, but it will approach the tournament as a time to “work out the kinks, because (its) main focus is getting ready for Ivies,” Cairo said.