After an Ivy League title-winning regular season, the women’s volleyball team (20-5) learned its spot in the 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament bracket during the Selection Show Sunday evening. The Bears will travel to Seattle to take on the 15th-seeded University of Washington Huskies (24-4) in the first round of the tournament, at a time this weekend that has yet to be determined. If Brown defeats Washington, it will face either the University of Hawai’i at Manoa (21-7) or Mississippi State University (25-5) in the second round.
This will be the Bears’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998. “It’s been such a long time since we made the tournament that nobody really knows how to feel,” said right-side hitter Kate Sheire ’24. “(Head Coach Ahen Kim) said that we’re basically all freshmen in this, because none of us have experienced it before.”
According to Sheire, being matched up with Washington in the first round of the tournament was a surprise to the Brown team, which was expecting a geographically closer opponent. “We were expecting something a little more regional,” she said. “Everybody had predictions for what was going to happen, and Washington wasn’t really part of that discussion.”
Setter Cierra Jenkins ’24 said the long travel to Seattle will be challenging, but the Bears are prepared to handle it. “The flight’s going to be rough, but once we get a practice in and get a feel for the area and the location and the court, we’ll do just fine,” she said. “We’re very good at traveling and making another court home.”
With a two-week hiatus between Brown’s final Ivy League match and the Selection Show, the Bears added a match against the University of Southern California (15-15) to their schedule, which took place last Monday. Although Brown dropped the match 3-0, Sheire said the experience of traveling to Los Angeles and competing will serve the women’s volleyball team well against Washington. The trip was “partially in prep for that travel-right-off-the-plane-into-volleyball experience,” she said. “We’re definitely more prepared than we would have been if we hadn’t (played USC). The trip to LA was brutal, it’s exhausting, but it’s something you push through and it’s something you get better at with practice.”
Kim and the women’s volleyball players believe that Washington will present a stern test. “(Washington) has a lot of good veterans … they play their system really, really well,” Kim said. “They’re a very precise team.”
“(Washington) secured that No. 15 seed … so it’s a big opponent, but super exciting,” Sheire added.
Even still, according to Kim, the Bears may match up well with the Huskies. “We’re a team that can move the ball around, and anyone can get hot,” he said. “If we can serve and pass at a good level, I think we’ll be there. We just played USC, and we were able to serve and pass with that team effectively, and I thought that was a really, really good preparation match for a team like Washington who serves and passes comparably well. That part of the game needs to stay sharp, and if we can do that, then I think anything’s game.”