Penn volleyball is still perfect halfway through the Ivy season.
The Quakers remained undefeated in conference play after consecutive straight-set home victories over Cornell and Columbia this weekend. Their Ivy record is now 7-0.
Against the Big Red on Friday, Penn (16-4, 7-0 Ivy) showed why it is the class of the conference. The Penn attack jumped on Cornell (6-13, 3-5) right out of the gate, storming out to a .333 hitting percentage in the first set. After scoring the first point of the match, the Quakers never relinquished the lead, taking the opening set in convincing fashion, 25-16.
It was only the beginning of a long night for Cornell, as Penn proved to be equally dominant in the next two sets, winning the final two sets by scores of 25-16 and 25-19, respectively.
The Quakers were led by senior outside hitter Elizabeth Semmens, who tallied 11 kills and 12 digs on her way to a fifth double-double in as many games. Junior Julia Swanson and freshman Lauren Martin added 9 kills each.
But the key to the win was Penn’s defense, which held Cornell to a mere .084 attack percentage. Libero Madison Wojciechowski anchored the Quakers’ back line with a match-leading 19 digs.
Friday’s victory set up a historic clash with Columbia (11-10, 2-6) Saturday afternoon — a win would mark the first time since 2003 that Penn beat all seven Ivy teams at least once in a season.
The Quakers came out firing, breaking an early 4-4 tie with a 7-2 run. A sea of pink — wearing the color to support Penn’s second-annual “Dig Pink” initiative to raise money for breast cancer research — erupted when Semmens capped off the offensive outburst with a thunderous kill. The Quakers rode the momentum to a 25-16 first-set victory.
“It was huge,” Penn coach Kerry Carr said of the crowd in Penn’s first weekend of home conference play. “We’ve faced some really awful crowds on the road, so it’s always nice to have a crowd cheering for us. It felt like whenever we dropped our energy down, the crowd picked us up.”
The Lions fought back in the second set, erasing a 15-10 Quakers’ lead to draw even at 16 apiece, as Penn struggled against Columbia’s blocks.
“They are a strong, tall blocking team,” Carr said. “It was a matter of making good choices … but there’s just one blocker up. So one-on-one, our hitters should be able to hit around them.”
A few small adjustments freed Penn senior middle blocker Ashley Hawkins, whose ninth kill of the match broke an 18-18 deadlock and put the Quakers up for good in the second set. Hawkins carried the Quakers through a tough second set, leading the team in both kills (11) and hitting percentage (.533).
“In the second set, [the Lions] changed up the tempo a little bit,” Hawkins said. “They threw in a few tips to take us out of our system, and to take out certain hitters.”
But with a smile on her face, Hawkins shrugged and said, “We simply had to adjust.”
The Quakers have dropped only four sets in their seven conference games, so for now, sitting atop the Ivy League, they won’t be looking to make too many adjustments.
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