The volleyball team (18-6, 9-5 Ivy League) swept both Cornell (7-16, 5-9) and Columbia (3-20, 1-13) in their last weekend of regular season play. The Bears have now swept their opponents in three straight matches since their Nov. 3 loss to Harvard.
“You love to win in that fashion. It’s pretty dominant,” Head Coach Taylor Virtue said. “It gives us the confidence to know that we’ve got more and we’re capable of doing that to just about anybody as long as we’re firing on all cylinders.”
“We definitely took a rough loss to Harvard, which was really beneath the level and the standard that we tried to set for Brown volleyball, and I think that that was a real wake-up call for us,” Kate Sheire ’24 said. “So there’s been a shift in our determination since then.”
The team celebrated their Senior Night during their last home game of the season Saturday.
“I have the best group of seniors that have led this (team) alongside me and it’s such a gift to be able to rely on your leadership the way I’ve been able to,” Virtue said. “We’re gonna miss them dearly and work really hard to make them proud.”
Bruno’s win over Cornell Friday clinched them a spot in the Ivy League tournament for the second straight season, as well as a postseason berth for Virtue in her first year as the Bears head coach.
Friday’s effort was led by Beau Vanderlaan ’25, who dominated the net as usual. The 2022 First Team All-Ivy middle blocker notched nine kills and four blocks with a staggering .529 hitting percentage.
Cierra Jenkins ’24 continued to put on a show with 31 assists and 10 digs, posting one of the team’s two double-doubles — the other coming from Mariia Sidorova ’26, who notched 10 kills and 10 digs.
“This week, we really (worked) on staying focused and disciplined no matter who our opponent was,” Jenkins said Saturday, when she notched another 25 assists. “So spreading out the offense, establishing my hands and going back to the middle really helped us be successful tonight.”
The first set against the Big Red was a challenge for the Bears, who found themselves down 14-9 early, but they battled back, winning eight of the next ten points to regain the lead 17-16. From then on, Cornell never regained the lead and Bruno coasted to a 25-21 set win.
The second set was a defensive struggle for both teams, with Cornell hitting a paltry .022 and the Bears only hitting .186. Despite the struggles offensively, the Bears remained efficient, committing only six errors, while Cornell committed 10 of their 20 total errors in the second set alone.
After the Bears took a 17-11 lead, the Big Red tried to mount a comeback, winning five straight to get back into the match — but Cornell could not keep up the momentum and fell 25-22.
The third set was a domination, with the Bears outhitting the Big Red .433 to .038. The match looked contentious at the beginning, as Brown had to battle back from a 5-1 deficit to get ahead 11-9. The teams traded four points apiece to bring the score to 15-13 before the Bears went on an 11-2 run to clinch their spot in the postseason tournament.
On Saturday night, the Bears honored seniors Ada Agolli ’24, Kate Danaher ’24, Jenkins, Sheire and Jilienne Widener ’24.
“We have a really special group of seniors and it’s their last chance here, their last moments in this gym in a competition,” Virtue said.
“I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to play here. This place is very special and this program is unforgettable,” Jenkins said. “The coaching staff, the players, the culture and the overall experience of being a student-athlete at Brown will be life-changing for me forever, and I give credit to my whole team for how awesome we are on the court and off the court. We will be friends for life.”
“This program is everything to me,” Sheire said. “It’s definitely big but it’s like a family.”
Sheire notched eight kills and three blocks in the match against Columbia. Vanderlaan also notched six blocks and, with 22 digs from Jessie Golden ’26, the Bears managed to hold the Lions to a hitting percentage of .133.
“We do a lot of preparation for the game,” Sheire said. “So going into it we have some spots that we think we’ll find success and we know hitters’ tendencies.”
Offensively, the Bears had seven players hit above a .300, an onslaught led by Jenkins’s 25 assists and four kills. Sidorova, meanwhile, notched a career-high five aces to lead the team from behind the service line.
Following the pregame celebrations, the Bears quickly set the tone for the night, going up 18-3 in the first set. While the Lions attempted to regain some momentum, the deficit was far too much and the Bears took the set 25-12, the Bears’ largest margin of victory in a set since Oct. 27 against Penn.
It was not much of a competitive match throughout the whole night, as the Lions were unable to break 20 points in any of the three sets. The Bears handily took the second and third sets by scores of 25-15 and 25-18, respectively.
The Ivy League postseason begins for the Bears on Friday with a 4 p.m. match against second-seeded Princeton in New Haven. Bruno went winless against the Tigers in the regular season and will look to change that trend. The match will be streamed live on ESPN+, and the winner will advance to the Ivy title match against either Harvard or Yale.
Dennis Carey is a sports senior staff writer for The Brown Daily Herald. He previously contributed to the Arts and Culture section. In his spare time, he enjoys watching Atlanta sports and collecting vinyl records.