The women’s volleyball team outplayed Columbia in three consecutive sets to win 3-1 at home Saturday. The first period got off to a tense start, with the Bears falling to Columbia 19-25, but fluid defense and an eye for passing opportunities allowed Bruno to come surging back to shut down Columbia 25-17, 25-22 and 25-17.
“We just had to pull it together and remember that we’re playing for each other and no one else,” said outside hitter Sophia Miller ’23. Miller led the team in digs with her 18 saves over the course of the night.
The Bears (10-7, 2-5 Ivy) spent the first stanza finding their footing, as the Lions (10-7, 3-4) took an early lead in the set and rolled to a 1-0 lead in the match.
But the Bears returned for the second set with a vengeance, taking an early 3-1 lead at the hands of outside hitter Makena Ehlert ’20, who snagged the first kill. Columbia tied the game at 4, but back-to-back kills from Miller inched the Brown lead to 6-4. The Bears held tight to their advantage for the remainder of the set, even as Columbia tied at 12, 13 and again at 14. Brown won the set 25-17, with eight of their ten kills brought in by Ehlert, who led the night in kills alongside Miller with 19 apiece.
“Today we came in with a different vibe about how we wanted to leave the gym,” Ehlert said. “It was nice to see everything come together, finally back-to-back-to-back and pushing through point by point without letting up at the end.”
Columbia came in hot at the top of the third set, opening with three unanswered points. Columbia’s ball-handling errors tallied Bruno’s first two points of the game, but the Lions responded with two kills. Ehlert broke the mold, supplying Bruno’s first kill of the set to bring the score to 5-3. It would not be until the score tied at 7 that the Bears leapt up, or in this case, dove down, to grab the lead. Hurling herself across the attack line, Kaitlyn Wong ’23 made Brown’s sixth, seventh and eighth points possible to hold the lead until Columbia tied the Bears at eight.
“Kaitlyn’s steadiness was unbelievable today,” said Head Coach Ahen Kim. “She was able to cover a lot of attackers, she passed repetitively and her serving continued to get stronger. Having a couple (of) people that are steady like (Wong) makes it that much easier for the next person, who can then say ‘I messed up, but since my teammate is strong right now, I have room.’”
Both teams scratched and clawed their way through the tight remainder of the set, with no team pulling further than two points ahead until a kill from right-side hitter Eliza Grover ’21 brought the score to 24-21 with Bruno ahead. Miller recorded the set-winning kill to finish the stanza with a 25-22 Brown victory. Every game-winning point of the night came off of assists from setter Kristin Sellers ’22, who was fifth in assists per set in the Ivy League last season and tallied 29 assists in the match.
Brown surged to victory in the final stanza, not allowing Columbia a single lead in the winning set. There were several close calls early in the period, but when Columbia tied the score at 3, Miller and Ehlert retaliated with back-to-back kills to notch a 5-3 advantage. When Columbia tied the score at 5, Miller and Ehlert drove the tally up to 7-5. Bruno sprinted to the finish line, going on a three-point run from 17-13 to 20-13 thanks to service errors from Columbia. Bruno traded points with Columbia until 23-17, when kills from Grover and Miller finished off the set at 25-17 to win the match.
“There was good maturity shown by (our team),” Kim said. “Those opportunities have been there for us time and time again and we hadn’t been capitalizing on them. We’re finally finding that right balance.”
The Bears will face Yale Saturday at 2:00 in the Pizzitola Sports Center.