For all of the women’s volleyball team’s recent success, which includes a 44-18 record over the past three seasons and a 2021 Ivy League Championship, there’s one team they haven’t been able to overcome: the Yale Bulldogs.
Of the 30 matchups between Yale and Brown since 2008, Yale has taken 28. And since 2021, Bruno has lost just seven games to Ivy League opponents — five of which are the Bears’ most recent matchups with the Bulldogs. Brown hasn’t beaten Yale since a five-set victory on Sep. 24, 2021.
On Friday, the Bears traveled to New Haven, seeking to finally reverse their fortunes against the Bulldogs — but instead, they suffered perhaps their most heartbreaking defeat yet.
“There's really no way to sugarcoat it,” said Head Coach Taylor Virtue. “It sucks.”
The Bears took the first two sets 25-23 and 25-16, but with just one more set needed to secure the victory, they began to lose their momentum. After Yale jumped out to a seven-point lead in the third set, a Bruno comeback brought it to within one at 23-22, but a couple of Bulldog kills kept Yale alive.
The fourth set, which saw 13 ties and six lead changes, neared its conclusion with the score knotted at 23. Again, the Bulldogs got the better of crunch time, scoring two straight points to send the match to a fifth set.
“The volleyball as a whole felt very high-level and fast paced, which we thrive off of,” said middle blocker Beau Vanderlaan ’25. “Long rallies and first side-outs were the name of that game.”
In the final frame, normally played only to 15 points, Yale reached match point leading Brown 14-11. But the Bears fought themselves back from the edge to level it at 14-all.
“It was exhilarating. Emotions were high, everyone on both sides of the court wanted the win so bad,” Vanderlaan said.
With both sides toeing a paper-thin line between victory and defeat, they traded the next five points, leading to another Bulldogs match point at 17-16. Here, Yale finally ended it with a kill, sending Brown back to Providence still searching for their elusive victory over the Bulldogs.
"The team played very high-level volleyball,” said Virtue, who is in her first season leading the program. “That match, although heartbreaking, was one of the best matches of volleyball I have seen in my time at Brown.”
Outside hitter Mariia Sidorova ’26, right-side hitter Kate Sheire ’24 and Vanderlaan led the Bears offensively, each with over 15 kills. Vanderlaan posted a .538 hitting percentage, more than double the team’s average. 2021 Ivy League Player of the Year Cierra Jenkins ’24, a setter, posted a season-high 55 assists.
“Personally this match brought up a lot of feelings for me,” Jenkins said. “It was my last first match of Ivy play as I am a senior, so I put a lot of mental and physical energy into my performance and leadership for the team, but it just shows we have more to work on, which is motivation towards getting better.”
Brown will host Ivy rivals Princeton and Penn next weekend.