For the Penn women’s volleyball team, this weekend’s Ivy League opener was about patience.
As coach Kerry Carr spoke to her players from the sideline Saturday night against Princeton, she constantly repeated, “Wait!”
In the end, though, the Quakers could not pull out the win against Princeton, falling in the five-set battle.
“We had to be very patient with this team and let them make their errors,” Carr said. “We just need to stay the course and … not get all hyped up and worried about errors.”
The Ivy League rivals are used to close matches. Four of the last five meetings between the Quakers and the Tigers have gone to five sets. This season’s matchup was no exception, as it was clear from the start it would not be an easy game for Penn to win.
The first set was tied 13 times, with the lead changing five times, until Penn finally notched the victory, 28-26. The second set was equally close. Though the Red and Blue got out to a quick 16-13 lead, they couldn’t hold it and eventually lost the set, 25-22.
However, the Quakers came roaring out of the gates to begin the third set. Jumping to an 8-0 lead, Penn was aggressive, posting a .355 hitting percentage. The Quakers were ahead by as many as 13 points, and they cruised past the Tigers for the 2-1 lead.
“I think we really gained our confidence back [in the third set],” said sophomore Emma White, who posted 13 kills and 23 digs. “Dani [Shepherd] had some really tough serving which got us a good lead and then we just kept it.”
Shepherd, the junior libero, posted 43 digs on Saturday night, pushing her career record to more than 1,000 digs and raising her average for the season to 7.07 per set, extending a comfortable lead atop the Division I rankings in digs per set.
Despite the dominance they showed in the third set, the Quakers could not close out the final two. Though they started the fourth set strong, going up 8-3, Princeton tied up the game at nine. Another close match, the score was tied eight times, but Princeton took the set, 25-23.
In the final set of the night, Ivy League kills leaders Lydia Rudnick dialed up the heat. The Quakers stayed in the game but couldn’t beat Princeton’s aggressive offense, falling, 15-13.
“We really kept our errors down, which is something we were striving to do,” Carr said of her team’s effort. “I think there were a couple mistakes at the very end, but I think more we were just tight, we were trying to dig a ball and there were two people there fighting over it instead of really flowing.”
Several times during the match, blockers would post up too early, taking away a chance for the Quakers to do some real damage and giving Princeton the opportunity to set up for kills.
The Quakers’ match on Sunday ended similarly to Saturday’s contest. Penn went to five sets for the third game in a row and ultimately fell to Towson.
Carr tried out different players in a low-stakes match to see what depth she can expect from her bunch.
“We’re taking the time to look at other players in different positions where we can use the bench, who comes in in clutch situations,” Carr said.
Though they are now down 0-1 in the Ivy season, there is still plenty of room to make up for the loss.
“We can come back,” Carr said after Friday’s loss to Princeton. “I’ve asked them to decide how you’re going to react to this loss — it was a very close loss. You were in it the whole way. There were some times you could have won, some times they could have won and in the end they pulled it out.”
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