On the Yale volleyball team’s 13-1 run to the Ivy championship last year, its one loss came in a home match against a struggling Penn team one day removed from a disappointing five-set loss to Brown.
On this year’s road trip, a much-improved Quakers’ team made easy work of Brown, flexing their collective muscles in a dominant sweep Friday night.
The victory set up a clash of the Ivy League titans Saturday in New Haven, Conn. The Bulldogs have looked even better than last year’s title team, while the Quakers presented their biggest obstacle to a repeat.
History indeed repeated itself, as it took all five sets for Penn to take down the defending champs and improve to 3-0 in the Ivy League with an inside track at dethroning the Bulldogs.
Penn coach Kerry Carr needed strong performances from all of her players to defeat Yale (12-2, 2-1 Ivy), and that’s exactly what she got.
Junior libero Madison Wojciechowski led the team with 31 digs while the Quakers overall compiled 96 digs compared to Yale’s 76. Junior setter Megan Tryon did a little bit of everything, racking up 60 assists as well as 13 digs and six kills.
The star of the match, though, was freshman Lauren Martin. The right-side hitter led the Quakers with 21 kills, one day after she recorded a team-high 15 against Brown (4-10, 0-3) with a phenomenal .571 hitting percentage.
With such evenly-matched teams on both sides of the net, the match went back and fourth as the Quakers (12-4, 3-0) took the first and third sets, while dropping the second and fourth.
Going into the fifth set, however, the Quakers were well at ease. They played 10 five-set matches last year, including two against the Bulldogs, and they have won all four of their five-setters this season.
“We [have] played a lot in the fifth set,” Tryon said, “so we’re used to it, and we’re used to the stress of that time.”
And while Martin was not a part of last year’s resilient team, she too seemed quite comfortable late in the game.
“I just tried to remain calm, but like everybody else, I wanted to win,” she said. “We played with a sense of urgency.”
While the Quakers are thrilled to come out with another five-set win over Yale in New Haven, they have their eyes set on avoiding a repeat of history in the final Ivy standings.
In fact, the Quakers seem primed to have their own say in who takes the title this year. They are undefeated in Ivy league play, but still have some work to do soon, with road matchups against Harvard and Dartmouth slated for this weekend. The Crimson are currently tied for fourth in the league with a 2-2 record, while the Big Green are second at 3-1.
“Harvard and Dartmouth next week are really, really good teams,” Carr said. “It’s going to be a battle.”
And while Carr was quick to mention that Penn went to five sets against both Harvard and Dartmouth last season, that may not be such a bad thing.
If this season has shown anything, it seems that when Penn has the opposing team in the fifth set, they have it right where they want it.
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