In the Penn volleyball team’s final home stand of the season, it was do-or-die.
In a weekend that promised a competitive match against up-and-coming Columbia, and a needed repelling of Cornell, the Quakers knew that they’d need to win outright to keep any hope of winning the Ivy championship alive.
The Penn seniors took the charge to heart, winning their last two games at the Palestra in a 3-2 victory over Columbia and a 3-0 win over Cornell.
Friday’s game against Columbia saw a dramatic finish for the Quakers, who needed five sets and a huge team-block by Megan Tryon and Susan Stuecheli to preserve a 3-2 victory.
After the Quakers (13-10, 9-2 Ivy) went up 14-10 in the fifth set and seemed to be on the path to victory, they allowed Columbia to score five straight points and almost steal the crucial win.
However, after a timeout and a stirring pep talk from coach Kerry Carr, the Quakers were finally able to turn it on and score three consecutive points for the win, 17-15, over the Lions (15-8, 7-5).
“When we faced that strong push from them, we pushed back instead of panicking, and that’s one of our strengths,” Carr said. “That’s where we’ve grown this season and it’s one of the hardest things to teach.”
Senior Julia Swanson led the Quakers with a career-high 30 digs, while Tryon had a season-high 62 assists and Stuecheli contributed eight blocks to the comeback win.
The next day, the Quakers were back at the Palestra to handle two orders of business: dispose of Cornell and celebrate Senior Night for their six graduating players.
Madison Wojciechowski, Megan Tryon, Julia Swanson, Emily Ettel, Nicole DeCuir and Britt Danneman were honored before the game by their families, teammates and a loyal fan contingent.
Though the match was intense from start to finish, the Quakers benefited from an especially raucous crowd rallying behind them.
Penn’s urgency overpowered the Big Red in three straights sets, 25-20, 25-10 and 25-17, as Cornell fell to 4-18 overall and 2-10 in conference play.
Wojciechowski broke the Ivy career digs record with 2,042 while, Tryon finished just four assists shy of breaking the school record of 3,582, and Swanson moved into ninth place on Penn’s all-time list with 1,044 kills.
It wasn’t hard for Carr to give credit to the players for their feats.
“They never quit,” she said. “Some of them were asked to perform from the first time they stepped on the court, but they’ve all handled everything. They’re the moral compasses of this team.”
The Quakers have now won nine out of their last 10 games and travel to Harvard on Friday to try to continue the hot streak — and keep title hopes alive.
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