The volleyball team (4-6, 0-1 Ivy League) played its opening conference game at home Friday night and suffered a tough loss to Yale (9-1, 1-0) in five sets. After leading 2-0 in the first two sets, the Bears were overtaken by the Bulldogs. Yale, the only Ivy League team which defeated Brown during the Bears’ 13-1 2021 season, defeated Brown 3-2.
The Bears narrowly took the first set 28-26 after an offensive battle. Brown opened the match hitting .368, and the Bulldogs did their best to compete, hitting .302. Brown earned an 18-12 lead, but Yale answered with a 7-0 run that left the Bears down one late in the set. After several rounds of back and forth, Bruno found itself down 23-21.
The Bears fought back and scored four of the next five points, thwarting a set point and notching the score at 25-24. Yale returned to set point at 26-25 after a kill and an attack error by Brown. Beau Vanderlaan ’25 stepped up and had back-to-back kills for the Bears, followed by a Yale error that allowed Bruno to take the opening set.
Brown’s offense found its rhythm in the second set, hitting .562 and holding the Bulldogs to -.036 on the defensive end. Three blocks by the Bears kept the momentum going in Bruno’s favor. The first block came from the combined efforts of Gabby Derrick ’25 and Kayla Griebl ’25, and the last two came from the duo of Vanderlaan and Kate Sheire ’24. After the third block, the Bears owned the set, winning handily 25-12.
Yale’s defense curved Brown’s offensive flow in the third set, holding the Bears to .111. Despite lacking on the offensive front, the Bears scored three consecutive points late in the set to tie the score at 22, but Yale scored the next two points to win the set 25-23.
Yale jumped to a 6-0 lead in the fourth to take control. While struggling to hit held Bruno back, the Bears made some ground and ultimately lost the set to Yale 25-22.
The final set to 15 points was marked by back-and-forth runs. Yale took an 11-8 lead, and Vanderlaan and Sheire answered with back-to-back kills to bring the Bears within one point. Yale won the next three points to create a match point, which Brown fought off, but the Bears could not manage to overcome the deficit and lost the set 15-11.
Head Coach Ahen Kim remains optimistic about the team’s future even after the loss. Despite falling in the Ivy opener, “I’m confident that they’re going to respond,” Kim said. “It was the most normal we’ve looked and felt in a long time. I think we have to understand what the new normal is and that teams are going to come after us.”
As the defending Ivy League Champions, Kim said the team has a tendency to chase perfection, but he encourages them to just focus on improving.
“My expectation for this team is not to go 13-1 from here on out. … It’s going to be about who can attack better and who can play better volleyball in November, regardless of the record,” Kim said. “The goal is to get better every week, keep attacking (and) be (in) your best form no matter how big the crowd is or how tight the match is.”
Although Cierra Jenkins ’24 missed most of the pre-season due to injury and is still adapting to playing with her team, she performed well for the Bears Friday, posting 10 kills in the match.
Jenkins said the team’s confidence after winning the first two sets — a confidence that she said ultimately resulted in the team losing the match — is something the team needs to work on.
The loss “just makes us need to get back in the gym and work on staying ahead,” Jenkins said.
Kim also said the team is working to adjust its mindset when it takes a lead after two sets. “The reality is we have to start all over again. We have to build again,” he said.
“Let’s be clear, winning a volleyball match is hard,” Kim added. “You go up 2-0, you have to know the other team is going to do something to fight back. We have to be okay and patient to play a long game.”
“It’s a new season. There are new goals,” Jenkins added. “This season is (about) taking one game at a time and not looking forward to the future, just going into practice every day, working on getting better at one thing and then taking it into the match.”
Vanderlaan, who led Brown with 17 kills, shares Kim’s optimism about the trajectory of the season despite the initial Ivy League loss. She noted that the Bears’ ability to fight back in close sets marks their tenacity in the face of adversity. “The first set proved to me how far this team has come this season, and I’m really proud of us for pushing through that,” Vanderlaan said.
“Every mistake that we made is a learning opportunity,” she added. “I think we did a good job adjusting; we just had to do a little bit more.”
Vanderlaan looks forward to returning to Ivy League play Friday night at Cornell. “This game (against Yale) just proved to me what this team is capable of, especially during those first two sets,” Vanderlaan said. “We can only go up from here.”
The Bears will face Cornell in Ithaca Friday at 7 p.m.