UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., — For one final time, the ball landed on Army’s side of the floor for a Penn kill. With that, the Quakers volleyball team won its first NCAA Tournament game.
While there have been several Penn teams that won Ivy League Championships, the 3-1 win over the Black Knights at Rec Hall on Penn State’s campus Friday was its first in four tries.
“We’re just super excited to be part of the first team in Penn history to go past the first round,” coach Kerry Carr said. “It’s just a huge step for our program, and we’ve worked so hard to get here.”
But Penn’s improbable tournament run came to an end the next day with a 3-0 loss to Penn State.
After the Red and Blue dropped their first set to Army, 25-18, they seemed to be headed for another early Tourney exit. But things changed as soon as the teams switched sides for the second set.
“Well, the momentum did change,” Carr said after the match. “What I’ve been saying all season long, about our being able to respond, has made us into a winning team.”
The Quakers hit .313 as a team over the next three sets, all of which they won. They leapt out to an 11-5 lead in the second set, and went on to win it 25-20.
“When our heads go down, we just pick them up and go to the next level,” Carr added. “We don’t let a misstep affect us into the next set or the next game.”
Penn dominated the third and fourth sets, winning them by scores of 25-18 and 25-16, respectively.
Ivy League Player of the Year Elizabeth Semmens lived up to her title, hitting .308 with 22 kills and 14 digs. Junior Madison Wojciechowski led the defense as usual, with a match-high 28 digs.
“I was thinking after that first game — we didn’t want to come all the way to Penn State and lose,” Wojciechowski said. “We wanted to win. That’s what we were working for all season.”
Yet the Quakers weren’t as fortunate Saturday night against the Tournament’s top seed Penn State who entered the match with a 33-0 record and a 97-game winning streak.
The defending national champions, Penn State swept all three sets to win the second-round match — but not without a fight.
The Quakers, however, held a 19-16 lead in the first set before eventually dropping it 25-20. They’d lose the next two sets, 25-17 and 25-16, in competitive fashion, punctuating a bittersweet ending to their historic season.
There was one bright spot, however, as junior setter Megan Tryon broke the school record for assists in a season with her 30 in the match, bringing her season total to 1,328.
“I’m proud of everything these ladies did in approaching the whole season,” Carr told Penn Athletics, “especially the tough matches like this one.”
Even Penn State coach Russ Rose was moved by Penn’s play.
“They were doing what you’d expect a team to do in a situation where they have nothing to lose,” Rose told Penn Athletics. “They played hard, they kept their heads up, and I respect that and admire it.”
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