For the Penn volleyball team, what started out as a strong weekend ended on a sour note.
After defeating Brown in four sets behind freshman Alex Caldwell’s triple-double, the Quakers’ three-match winning streak came to an end in straight sets at Yale on Saturday.
On Friday at Brown (5-12, 1-6 Ivy), the Red and Blue had a solid overall performance, leading the Bears in kills and digs while recording fewer errors. Outside of a tight third set, Penn (9-9, 4-3) dominated the match.
However, the momentum turned in the second contest of the weekend as Yale (11-5, 7-0 Ivy) extended its conference lead with a hard-fought, three-set victory. It was only the second time this year that the Quakers lost in straight sets.
“We executed our game plan well, getting them frustrated, but for them to step up their defense was probably what gave them the win,” coach Kerry Carr said. “We were tied, 24-24, [in the first set], and the ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
After falling in the first set, 26-24, the Quakers led throughout most of the second before Yale reeled off 12 straight points to carry a two-set lead into a decisive third set. There, the Quakers had more errors (nine) than kills (eight), finishing off any attempt to come back against an opportunistic Yale team.
Despite the outcome, the Red and Blue had strong personal performances from key underclassmen. Caldwell had a triple-double against Brown, with 13 kills, 20 assists and 12 digs. She continued her all-around performance by almost recording a second-straight triple-double at Yale, coming up just two kills short.
“Last weekend, she didn’t play her game to her best ability,” Carr said. “As a freshman, you have a couple of ups and downs but for her to come out against Brown and play her game, it showed her focus this weekend.”
On the defensive side, junior Dani Shepherd had the match high in digs against both Brown and Yale, with 28 and 16 respectively. Shepherd came into this week as the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week and also leads the NCAA in digs per set.
“She never lets us down. She’s our steady player out there,” Carr said. “She brings her best, and that is something that anchors the team in tough situations.”
Halfway through Ivy play, the Quakers stand in the middle of the pack. However, they get a chance to start moving up the standings this Friday at Princeton, which defeated the Red and Blue in a five-set loss earlier this year.
Because of those close losses to Princeton and Yale, Carr is emphasizing how Penn’s young team finishes their matches.
“We’re starting sets strong and we’re starting games strong,” Carr said, “but how to close it out and finish against more experienced teams is something we need to learn real quick here as we start the Ivy League season all over again.”
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