Another Princeton strike fell to the floor on Penn’s side, extending a period of sloppy play for the Quakers out of the gate. In the blink of an eye they trailed 4-0 in the first set.
But they instantly sprung to life, scoring four straight points on their way to winning the first set and eventually the match, 3-1, over Princeton last night at the Palestra.
Although it already clinched the Ivy League conference title and an NCAA Tournament berth, Penn (22-5, 13-1 Ivy) improved its conference record to 13-1, matching its best ever Ivy record from the 2002 and 2003 championship seasons.
Junior Madison Wojciechowski led Penn with 21 digs in the match, proving to be an integral part of its defensive strategy yet again. She extended her single-season digs record to 566 and broke Cara Thomason’s school record of 1,525 all-time digs, finishing the season with 1,534 on her career — with one season still to play.
Along with her 15 digs, senior Elizabeth Semmens once again led the team with her 17 kills.
After tying the first set at four, the Quakers managed to lift away to a 19-12 lead and went on to take the set, 25-17.
Their momentum spilled into the second set, as Penn leapt out to a quick 5-1 lead. But then the Tigers (11-14, 9-5) got into a groove of their own, tying the score 8-8, and using a 9-4 run en route to a 17-12 lead. The Quakers responded with a 9-4 run to tie the set at 21, and went on to win it, 25-23.
“[Our performance] was good,” coach Kerry Carr said. “We started off a little slow, we had a few people playing different positions that they weren’t used to, but I think that we played well.”
Penn took a commanding 2-0 set lead into the third, but Princeton managed to stay alive, taking it with a 25-16 score, the most decisive by either team in the match.
“We kind of let off a little bit, let off the pedal, and let them get back into it,” Carr said. “Princeton played very well, and we were forced to play our best too.”
“Sometimes that happens,” freshman Lauren Martin added. “I think we just weren’t focusing on the details, but we picked it up in the fourth set, obviously.”
Indeed Penn did, but it was no easy task. The Quakers grabbed a 6-2 lead before Princeton rallied for a 14-14 tie, and even took a brief 15-14 lead. The Red and Blue would surge back to a 23-21 lead before two straight kills by senior Ashley Hawkins ended the match.
“We put in our regular starters, and were a bit more comfortable playing with those people who have helped us for the last eight or nine matches,” Carr said of the fourth set.
Now Penn can only wait until Nov. 29 to learn who it will face in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“We can win in the first round,” Martin said. “We’ll see what happens.”
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