The women’s volleyball team beat out Coppin State University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Providence College to claim an uncontested victory in the Friar Classic at Providence College over the weekend. Bruno won the first two matchups before closing the tournament with a high-intensity 3-2 match against the Friars in five sets: 25-21, 22-25, 18-25, 25-23, 15-11.
The Bears (6-1) and the Friars (5-5) proved to be closely matched competitors from the start. Bruno opened the first set with a scoring play seconds after the opening serve, setting off the Friars, who swung back with four points in under thirty seconds. Brown and Providence traded points back and forth until a back-court power-serve by outside hitter Makena Ehlert ’20 tied the score at six. Providence shortly regained the lead, but Brown followed up with five consecutive points to set the score at 11-7. Providence fired back with three consecutive points to bring the score to 11-10 Brown.
The schools continued to battle it out, but libero Ashley Oelrich ’22 fought off a barrage of attacks from the Friars, allowing the Bears to take the set at 25-21.
“We were deliberate about controlling the pace of the game and not letting Providence run away with it,” said Head Coach Ahen Kim.
The Friars dominated the middle two sets with quick, physical play.
“Credit to Providence,” Kim said. “They played really fast. A speed that we haven’t seen yet this season, or in our own gym to be quite frank. Winning the first set was big. It gave us life. … It took the middle sets to get it figured out.”
The second set (22-25) marked Brown’s first lost set in the tournament. The Bears came close to the win, thanks to the efforts of Ehlert and setter Kristin Sellers ’22. Ehlert led the team in kills with 16 against the Friars and 40 throughout the tournament. Sellers led Bruno in assists with 46 against the Friars and 99 total in the classic. Sellers and Ehlert also snagged critical digs, totaling 12 and 35 respectively over the course of the matches.
Brown teased fans by opening with a score in the first few seconds of the third set, but five consecutive points from Providence prophesied the rest of the stanza, which Brown dropped 18-25.
Initially, the fourth set was in danger of pulling the plug on Bruno’s chances for victory. Kaitlyn Wong ’23, less than two weeks into her collegiate volleyball career, spearheaded Bruno’s defensive efforts to stave off defeat in the fourth set. The Friars continued their hot streak, taking an early 3-0 lead and eventually scratching out a healthy 13-7 score in their favor. But the Bears clawed back. With the teams tied at 15, outside hitter Gabrielle Moriconi ’21 stepped up, sending one sailing between the antennae to snag a lead.
“We had a few critical swings from (Moriconi) that put us back in there,” Ehlert said. “She was hitting that line really well. That got our heads back in (the game).”
A flurry of successes for both sides saw Providence close in on the Bears at 23-24, but Bruno put the Friars away to win the set 25-23 in a collective effort.
The Friars “came out swinging really hard,” Sellers said. “But it turned all around once we started getting points in the later half of the set. (Providence is) really big and physical, but we realized we could hang because we’re good on defense and had put up solid blocks.”
Brown and Providence came into the fifth and final round tied two sets a piece. The Friars came out with two points in the first seconds of regular play, but the Bears held their own, smacking back five consecutive points to take the lead 5-2. Providence landed three shots in Bruno territory to knot the score again, but middle blocker Jacqueline Jacobs ’20 constantly floated up to block the bulk of Friar attacks. Brown’s offense righted the ship to defend the lead throughout a tense back-and-forth, until a narrow Providence kill tied the teams at 11. Brown buckled down and sprinted to the finish, knocking back four furious scores to emerge victorious from the deciding match 15-11.
The Bears will next take the court Sept. 17 at Bryant University.