The volleyball team (9-7, 5-2 Ivy) returned to play two games in the Pizzitola Sports Center after four games on the road. The Bears swept Penn (2-15, 1-6) in three sets Friday night before Princeton (14-3, 6-1) ended Brown’s five-game win streak in four sets Saturday night.
Brown 3, Penn 0
Brown’s offense continued to thrive Friday night as the Bears hit .376. Cierra Jenkins ’24 provided 37 assists in the match, earning her 1,000th career assist in the final set. The junior reached the milestone on a kill by Kate Sheire ’24. Sheire, along with Kayla Griebl ’25, led the team in kills with 10 each.
Brown’s defense held Penn to .143 hitting, led on the backline by Victoria Vo ’25 with 11 digs. The Bears out-blocked the Quakers at the net 7-1, with Beau Vanderlaan ’25 posting four on the night.
Bruno opened the match with a strong 7-3 start spurred by three blocks, each of which Sheire contributed to, before taking off on an 11-2 run in the middle of the first set to take a 21-10 lead. A flurry of kills by Vanderlaan, Sheire, Griebl and Gabby Derrick ’25 fueled the Bears’ extended run. Brown closed out the set with a block by Vanderlaan and Jenkins for a 25-13 win.
The Bears continued their momentum into the second set, jumping to a 9-3 lead. Two kills by Sheire and one each by Vanderlaan and Griebl sparked the strong start. The two teams scored back and forth in the middle of the set until the score was 17-11 in favor of Brown. Bruno charged on to take a 20-15 lead, but three straight points from Penn brought the Quakers within two. Penn fought to stay in the set, trading points with Brown until the Bears reached set point at 24-21. Penn answered with a point, but Griebl ended the set with a kill for a 25-22 victory.
Brown controlled the third set from the first serve, and two consecutive kills by Jilienne Widener ’24 cushioned Bruno’s lead in the middle of the set at 13-6. Sophia Miller ’23 added a kill to extend the Bears’ lead to eight. Later in the set, Penn cut Brown’s lead to six, but kills by Sheire and Elise Curtin ’23 brought the match to a close, with the Bears taking the set 25-17.
Brown 1, Princeton 3
Both teams hit below their .300-plus season averages Saturday night as Princeton was held to .206 and Brown was held to .176. The Bears maintained their strong defense at the net, out-blocking the Tigers 17-6, with Derrick posting a team-high nine. But Princeton’s backline defense collected 83 digs to Bruno’s 67.
Miller led Brown’s offense with 13 kills, adding 14 digs for a double-double. Jenkins also posted a double-double with 36 assists and 12 digs. Despite two other Bears recording double-figure performances – Vo had 21 digs and Jessie Golden ’26 added 10 – Princeton’s 63 kills to Bruno’s 48 gave the Tigers the edge they needed to break the Bears’ winning streak.
Princeton narrowly took the two initial sets, the first of which the Bears were leading 21-18 as set-point approached. But the Tigers scored the next six points to force a set point with Bruno trailing. A kill by Sheire afforded the Bears one more point before Princeton took the set 25-22.
The score was 10-10 in the second set when Brown began collecting points using net defense. Blocks by Miller, Sheire, Derrick, Vanderlaan and Griebl gave the Bears an 18-17 advantage. Princeton’s 3-0 run before the two teams traded points gave the Tigers the edge in the set. Princeton then took a 24-20 lead, and Brown fought off three straight set points before a kill by the Tigers ended the set 25-23.
The Bears buckled down in the third set, using a 5-0 run in the middle to take a 15-9 lead. Brown pushed its lead to eight and withstood a late 6-1 run by Princeton. Three straight kills by Miller, Sheire and Widener allowed Bruno to close the set with a 25-19 victory.
Brown fell in the fourth set, despite earning an early 8-6 lead. Princeton used a 7-1 run to go up 14-10. The Bears began closing the gap toward the end of the set, narrowing the score to 21-18 in favor of Princeton, but could not complete the comeback. Princeton took the set 25-20.
Jenkins learned that she had reached the 1,000 career assist milestone after Friday night’s game. “I’m glad that I got the (1,000th) assist off my best friend, Kate Sheire. She’s a killer right side and I’m proud of myself and proud of my team for getting me those passes to make those assists,” Jenkins said.
Facilitating the offense comes with a sense of responsibility for Jenkins. “I tell my passers, ‘High and off.’ If they can get the ball off the net, I will run anywhere on this court to try and produce a good ball for my hitters to swing,” Jenkins said. “I try to take the pressure off them and put it more on me because I’m used to touching every ball every play.”
Jenkins reflected on the last time her team played at home this season, facing a loss to Yale. “That game was a wake up call for us. Coming off of a high from last season being Ivy League champs, we didn’t have the mindset of, ‘This is a new year, we’ve got to start new,’” Jenkins said. “It was humbling and it really drove us to work harder in practice.”
Vo, who has been leading Brown’s backline defense this season, attested to the team’s effort in game preparation and how important backline defense is. “Everyone during practice is giving it their all,” Vo said. “If we get a good dig, we get an opportunity to swing. If we get a swing, we get a point. That’s how it works.”
Head Coach Ahen Kim commended the relationship that is developing between Vo at libero and Jenkins at the setter position. Jenkins “takes the burden off of (the backline) and it just gives Vic the freedom to go hunt down some digs,” Kim said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the relationship between Vic and Cierra to find each other in those dig-set opportunities.”
Kim encourages his team to be mindful of the pace at which they play and to be patient in finding the time to score. “Slow down, learn what you need to learn from the last point, but then immediately move on to the next one,” Kim said.
The Bears will begin the second half of their season Friday at Yale at 7 p.m.