The volleyball team (9-8, 5-3 Ivy League) lost in four sets to Yale (16-1, 8-0) Friday night in New Haven, Brown’s second loss to the Bulldogs this season after losing in five sets in September to open Ivy League play.
Despite Beau Vanderlaan ’25 hitting .524 with 11 kills and Sophia Miller ’23 posting 12 kills, Yale’s defense limited Brown to a .101 hitting percentage in the match, their lowest in conference play this season. While the Bears struggled to earn points attacking, their net defense provided some momentum throughout the match, with Bruno cumulatively out-blocking Yale 16-13.
After Yale’s hitting left Bruno down 2-0 after the first two sets, Brown’s net defense spurred a third-set win, posting six blocks in the frame. In the match, Vanderlaan and Elise Curtin ’23 both had four blocks, while Miller and Kayla Griebl ’25 added three each.
The Bears opened the third set aggressively, quickly earning a 6-2 lead. Yale responded with their own run to tie the set 7-7 before Brown scored five straight points — topped off with a kill by Miller — to go up 12-7.
A 6-1 run for Yale mid-set cut the Bears’ lead to two as set point approached. Two kills by Kate Sheire ’24 brought Bruno’s lead back to three, with the score set at 18-15. Three of the Bears’ final six points came by way of kills by Vanderlaan After Bruno earned set point on a kill from Miller, a combined block from Miller and Curtin allowed Brown to take the set 25-22.
In the fourth set, the Bears kept pace with the Bulldogs early on. Down 11-10, Brown went on a 4-0 run, and Yale followed with their own 4-0 run to notch the score at 15-14 in favor of the Bulldogs. A kill by Griebl tied the set at 15 before Yale went on a 5-2 run that left Bruno down three. A Yale error and a combined block by Sheire and Curtin made the score 23-21, but Yale scored the final two points of the game as Brown fell in the fourth set 25-21.
Although Brown has now lost both of its regular season matchups against Yale, the Bears have set their sights on the Ivy League tournament, where they expect to face off against the Bulldogs again. If Yale maintains their ranking at the top of the conference, they will host the Ivy League Tournament, which hasn’t been held for volleyball in decades, according to Kim.
The tournament will consist of the top four teams in conference play, according to the Ivy League website. It will take place Nov. 18 to 20.
Head Coach Ahen Kim believes that the Bears are qualified to compete in the tournament, and told his team following Friday’s loss in New Haven to “enjoy this place. We’re going to see it again, and we’re going to have another crack at it,” Kim said in an interview with The Herald. “We’ve just got to get better.”
He added that the team’s improvements in blocking and serving paved the way for their third-set win. Brown earned three of its five total service aces in the third set, which facilitated more favorable blocking matchups, according to Kim. “How do you win that tug-of-war or shift the balance a little bit?” he said. “To me, it starts with serving tougher.”
Curtin explained the importance of blocking not only for scoring points, but for giving the team momentum. “It’s really satisfying to get a block,” Curtin said. “Everybody gets really excited, especially at crucial points in the game when the score is really close. You get a block and everybody goes crazy.”
The Bears have battled injuries and illnesses within the team this season, which have left them without crucial players. Finding their rhythm on the court quickly is essential to their success, Curtin added. “In the third and fourth sets, we competed a lot harder,” she said. “There was a renewed energy like, ‘We’ve really got to fight for this now.’ ”
In the final two sets, “we really tried to focus on playing more as a unit and as a team than worrying about what was going on on (Yale’s) side of the net or just the environment of the gym,” Sheire said. “Our emphasis was a lot more on making sure our system was working the way it was supposed to be and that we were each individually putting our own effort in and focusing on our connection.”
Although the Bears’ end goal is to win the Ivy League tournament, their immediate focus is on winning the next game ahead of them, Kim said. He emphasized that every match is important to teams vying for a spot in the tournament.
“The Columbia match is equally as big as the Yale game, to be quite honest,” he said. “Each win in the win column secures you a little more firmly into the Ivy League Tournament, and that’s what it’s all about now.”
Curtin is confident that her team will show resilience in the face of adversity. “We’re never going to go down easy,” she said. “We always come back fighting at some point.”
The Bears look to add two more wins to their record this weekend as they host Columbia Friday at 7 p.m and Cornell Saturday at 5 p.m.