PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A third set that featured 12 ties and 12 lead exchanges culminated in a 28-26 win for the Brown volleyball team, helping the Bears secure their first victory of the season by way of a three-set decision over the College of the Holy Cross on the opening night of the Brown Invitational at the Pizzitola Sports Center on Friday. Brown improves to 1-4 overall and the Crusaders slip to 3-4 on the season.
Smith denied the opposition time and again with eight block assists, and senior Alexandra Rieckhoff (Laguna Beach, Calif.) quietly disrupted the Holy Cross offense with 11 digs.
The Bears set the tone early and ran away with a 25-13 win in set one. Lord and Nickel tallied four kills apiece and Lucenti sniped a pair of aces as Brown hit at a staggering .522 percentage. The Crusaders could not crack the hosts' defense and registered just five kills to five errors. Conner took her turn to serve with a 22-12 lead and got the final Brown possession rolling with an ace, followed promptly by a Nickel kill and Crusader miscue. The visitors earned the right to serve one last time, but Smith spiked the 25th point to close the door on the opening set.
The second set proved more grueling for both sides, but the Bears persevered through a handful of enduring rallies to come out on top, 25-23. Seemingly every prolonged exchange ended in Brown's favor, evidenced by 23 digs in the second set alone. Seven different Bears logged kills in the set, led by three each from Lord and Smith, but Lord's high velocity serving applied the necessary pressure to pull away from the Crusaders in the late going. Two aces helped Brown take a 22-19 lead, a sneaky dump shot by Wagenbach opened the advantage to 23-20, a Smith spike pushed things to set point and a Holy Cross service error capped the set.
A Rocky-esque exchange of blows told the story of the third set and extra volleyball proved necessary to decide a winner. Clutch digs and timely blocks helped the Bears prevent a fourth set as Brown policed the net with 10 total blocks. Smith paced her squad with four block assists and senior Thea Derrough (La Jolla, Calif.) and Lord joined Smith up front with two block assists each.
Smith took the ball facing a 22-20 deficit and smacked back-to-back aces to knot things at 22-22, but an errant serve sent the ball back to the Crusaders. Derrough quickly regained possession with a kill and Lord and Olivares teamed up for a block that forced set point, but a visitor kill and an error suddenly tied the game at 25-25.
The two sides exchanged points for a 26-26 score, but Smith had her hand in the final two points with a crucial kill and a block assist alongside junior Maryl Vanden Bos (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.) on the knockout blow.
The Bears are back in action tomorrow with a pair of non-league contests, beginning against Bryant at 12:30 p.m. followed by Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m.