The volleyball team (15-10, 10-4 Ivy League) earned its first victory over Princeton (21-4, 13-1) of the season in a 3-0 sweep Friday during the semi-final round of the Ivy League Tournament after losing twice to the Tigers during the regular season. But the Bears fell 3-1 to the first seed and tournament host Yale (23-2, 13-1) in the finals Saturday night.
Sophia Miller ’23 and Kate Sheire ’24 earned all-tournament honors for their performances over the weekend.
Brown 3, Princeton 0
The Bears came out strong against the Tigers, who finished first in the conference defensively, holding their opponents to an average of .171 hitting during the regular season. Despite this, the Bears hit .233 against Princeton in the tournament match. Bruno started the first set with a 7-0 run which featured kills from Sheire and Miller and a service ace by Miller. Brown used solid defense in the first set to hold Princeton to .159 hitting and forced the Tigers to commit 26 errors. The Bears took the opening frame 25-18.
In the second set, after the contest was tied at six, Princeton went on a 4-0 run that left the Bears down 10-6. Later, the Tigers stretched their lead to six points at 17-11, before a kill by Beau Vanderlaan ’25 sparked Bruno’s comeback within the set. Brown eventually notched the score at 22-20 as set point approached.
Princeton threatened to take the set at 24-22, but committed two errors to tie the score at 24 apiece. The Tigers then scored, but Miller answered with a kill. Princeton earned one more point before the Bears answered with the last three points to take the set 28-26. The final play of the set was initially called against Bruno, but Head Coach Ahen Kim challenged the decision, arguing that a Princeton player had touched a ball hit by Kayla Griebl ’25 before it went out of bounds. The call was reversed to give Brown a 2-0 set advantage.
The final set was tight throughout. Nearing a match victory, Brown threatened to close the game with a 24-23 lead. Princeton responded with two kills that forced the Bears to fight off the set point. This pattern repeated, but when Bruno took a 28-27 lead, the Tigers scored only once in response. Bruno closed the game on two errors by Princeton with a 30-28 set victory.
Brown 1, Yale 3
Miller, a senior, ended her career as a Bear leading Brown’s offense against the Bulldogs with 22 kills and 13 digs. Griebl posted a double-double with 11 kills and a career-high 13 digs.
Bruno struggled offensively in the first two sets and fell 25-21 in both frames. Down 2-0 in sets, Brown took a 5-2 lead at the start of the third set, fueled by three kills by Miller and an ace by Vanderlaan. The Bears expanded their lead to 11-6 through a 4-0 run that featured two blocks from the combined efforts of Vanderlaan and Ella Park ’26, and continued their momentum to notch the score at 14-8 with a kill by Miller.
Yale overtook Bruno’s lead and left Brown down 18-17. But the Bears answered with a 4-0 run, marked by two kills by Griebl. Bruno reached set point at 24-20 before the Bulldogs went on a 4-0 run that tied the score at 24. The teams each scored a point, but Brown scored the final two in a row, one of which was from a kill by Miller, to take the set 27-25.
The Bears could not continue their momentum into the fourth set and fell behind 7-1 to start. Brown attempted a comeback with a 4-0 run that featured two kills by Griebl to make the score 7-8 in favor of the Bulldogs, but Yale responded with a 5-0 run to take a six-point lead. Another 4-0 Yale run left Bruno down 21-12. Brown scored three times in a row in an effort to close the gap before Yale threatened to end the match with the score set at 24-15. The Bears fought off three straight set points before the Bulldogs closed the championship game with a kill, ending on a final set score of 25-18.
Kim said the atmosphere of the tournament was different from regular season games, placing additional pressure on the Bears.
“It’s not comparable. The game is the same but even on the sidelines it’s a different tension, each point feels bigger, it’s very much a do or die,” Kim added. “You make it to the postseason, there’s a sense of accomplishment there which just makes it that much sweeter to be playing those matches when you know no one else gets to play.”
Vanderlaan said she was confident that her team could defeat Princeton despite falling in both matches against the Tigers during the regular season. Their last matchup before the tournament went to five sets with the final set decided by two points.
“Both Princeton and Yale felt unfinished because we knew we could beat both teams,” Vanderlaan said. “You have to come in thinking ‘I know we can do this, we’ve got this.’ ”
Sheire was named to the All-Ivy Second Team in addition to the Academic All-Ivy Team and All-Tournament Team. She said the team’s close loss to Princeton in their second matchup this season fueled their 3-0 victory in the tournament.
“It absolutely motivated us more, even though we try to approach every game no matter how large or small the opponent is with the same mindset,” Sheire said. “The fact of the matter is that (the) second Princeton game was our most energetic matchup this season, so coming into the third one, we associated that team with a lot of competition, a lot of long rallies.”
As a junior who lost a season of competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheire said she appreciates that she has one more year to continue pursuing success with the volleyball team. “It’s exciting but a little bit scary,” she said. “Next season really will be an end-all, be-all opportunity to do something really amazing for the school and for my teammates,” she added.
Vanderlaan was named Rookie of the Year last year and earned First Team All-Ivy honors this season. Receiving this recognition “feels amazing,” she said. “Hopefully that trend continues. The team’s worked really hard, I’ve worked really hard, so (I’m) very happy to see that.”
The Bears have relied heavily on strong performances from first-years Park and Jessie Golden ’26 throughout the season. “Jessie Golden and Ella Park especially as (first-years) have really stepped up,” Vanderlaan said. “I’m really proud of them and really excited to see how they’re going to progress (in) the next couple years.”
Kim said Miller, who also earned First Team All-Ivy honors and will graduate in May, will be difficult to replace, considering her role on the team. “Sophia’s been the face of this program,” Kim said. “She came in 2019 and helped us (get) to fourth place immediately and (earned) three straight Ivy first team honors. I thought she was one of the most complete players in the Ivy League.”
Despite losing Miller, Kim said the team has much to look forward to next season. “If we can get healthy and get stronger for next year, I expect we’re going to improve and that’s always a really encouraging outlook for us as we continue to play together,” Kim said.