Penn volleyball had plenty of momentum Friday night at the Palestra, but the Red and Blue could not catch a break.
The Quakers jumped out to early leads against Ivy co-leader Princeton in the last two sets, but gave them up shortly after the Tigers called timeouts and regrouped. Those momentum swings would prove costly, as Penn fell in three sets, 25-22, 25-21, 25-20. It was the second time the Red and Blue lost to the Tigers this season.
“The final score doesn’t accurately indicate how close tonight was,” coach Kerry Carr told Penn Athletics. “We upped our defense incredibly … we just made a couple of mistakes at key moments and that’s the difference between a win and a loss.”
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Playing in its annual Dig Pink Match for breast cancer awareness, Penn (6-12, 2-6 Ivy) began the first set competitively with strong serves from freshman Emma White and powerful kills from sophomore Susan Stuecheli. But Princeton (14-6, 7-1) was still able to manage a 12-8 lead, when the Quakers decided to take their first timeout.
Out of the break, Penn caused three attack errors from the Tigers and received a series of kills from sophomore outside hitter Kristen Etterbeek, who led the match with 14 on the night and tied it up at 18.
Princeton called a timeout of its own, and as would be the case in each of the three sets, came back out energized and primed to score. They generated four quick points as Penn’s chemistry suffered a breakdown.
An Etterbeek kill and an ace from freshman Meghan Connolly helped resist the Princeton surge, bringing the set to a Princeton lead at 24-22, but the Tigers finished the set on the next volley.
The Quakers began the second set with a quick 6-2 lead, calling for an early Princeton timeout. But again, the Tigers made good use of the break as they proceeded to grab a 12-11 lead. The two teams began a heated battle mid-set, tying the score four times between the 12th and 18th points.
But Penn’s 18-16 lead marked the start of a seven-point rally from Princeton, stopped by White. The Quakers fought back with another Etterbeek kill and a second Connolly ace, provoking another Tigers timeout. Princeton completed the set with the next two points.
“It just took us a while, a few points, to get back on track and get them out of their rhythm,” Etterbeek said about Princeton’s effectiveness out of the break.
The third set featured a tense series of volleys that kept the score close before the Tigers made the decisive push to finish the set at 25-20.
Etterbeek felt that the team, which was playing right before Penn basketball’s “The Line” event kicked off, did not break down chemistry-wise throughout the match. There did appear, however, to be some costly mistakes down the stretch.
“The drive was there, the determination was there,” Etterbeek said. “It was just a matter of really putting the pieces together and putting the ball away.”
The execution that may have been lacking at times is still something Penn is working on, but the Tigers offered a good model, especially with their in-game adjustments.
“Princeton did use their timeouts effectively, but in the long run,” Etterbeek said, “we’re hoping to be that team that uses their timeouts more effectively than they do.”
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