Entering Saturday’s game against Dartmouth, six Penn volleyball matches had gone the distance.
Each ended in a five-set loss for the Red and Blue.
So the Quakers were facing a worst-case scenario when they let a 2-0 lead slip away and headed to a decisive final set with the Big Green in Hanover, N.H.
But the Quakers finally broke through, vanquishing their fifth-set demons in a marathon 25-22, 25-23, 16-25, 20-25, 15-12 victory. The win gave Penn a weekend split after a four-set loss to Harvard on Friday.
“We approached the fifth set the right way that we knew we could all along,” coach Kerry Carr said.
The victory over Dartmouth (13-8, 5-5) was Penn’s second on the season and lifted the Quakers into sole possession of sixth place in the league.
Five Quakers had multiple kills in the first set as the team hit .382 to take a 1-0 lead. The Big Green clawed their way back from a six-point deficit in the second for a 21-21 tie. Two Dartmouth errors, along with a kill each from freshman Emma White and senior Kristen Etterbeek — who combined for 15 of the Quakers’ 19 in the set — closed out the set for the Red and Blue.
But the Quakers’ offense went cold in the third, allowing the Big Green to extend the match with a 25-16 victory.
In the fourth, Dartmouth hit .359 and overcame six service errors to win by a score of 25-20 and force Penn’s seventh five-set match of the season.
On this day, the Quakers saved their best for last. They hit a match-high .400 and used sophomore Susan Stuecheli’s five kills to finally solve the puzzle of the fifth set with a 15-12 victory.
Even after the snowstorm forced the team to delay its trip home and stay in New Hampshire overnight, a tired Carr could not hide her pride and excitement.
“Everyone that has done well at different times did well all at once,” Carr said of the fifth set, “and that’s definitely the key to success.”
Friday night in Cambridge, Mass., Harvard was able to overcome a strong defensive effort by the Quakers in a 25-20, 26-24, 22-25, 25-20 victory. The win gave the Crimson (11-9, 4-6) the season sweep.
In both of the first two sets, Harvard jumped out to early leads before Penn rallied back. The Crimson surged ahead late in both sets to take a 2-0 lead.
The third set was a strong response from Penn. The Quakers seized an early lead at 11-7 and used four Etterbeek kills en route to a 25-22 victory.
The Crimson hit a match-high .235 in the decisive fourth set to seal their win.
Defensively, Carr said, “We executed very, very well in keeping Harvard to hitting poorly.”
But errors plagued the Quakers on offense, leading Carr to express disappointment in “seeing Harvard play so poorly on offense and not being able to capitalize on that.”
A win the following day would brighten the coach’s mood.
“It was hugely successful from a lot of different standpoints,” she said.
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