It was a weekend of twos for the women’s volleyball team: two games, two polar opponents, two different results, two highlighted classes, two star freshmen and now, two games left in a 2012 season that has turned into a battle for second place.
Over a weekend that eventually determined the outcome of the Ivy League title a week prior to the end of the season, the Quakers battled first-place Yale and seventh-place Brown.
Friday night at the Palestra, the Quakers faced a scorching-hot Bulldogs team that hadn’t lost a game since mid-September.
After dropping the first set, 25-23, the Quakers bounced back in the next, 25-20, fueled by 12 of junior Dani Shepherd’s 35 digs.
“We operated the second set perfectly and came out and killed them, which gave us the confidence to know that we could win the match,” coach Kerry Carr said. “But we basically played perfectly, and that’s hard to keep up.”
However, the Bulldogs (16-5, 12-0 Ivy) went back on the offensive and captured the next two sets for their 12th straight victory and an undefeated record in the conference.
“I wish we were able to maintain our play from that second set, but that’s just not where we are right now,” Carr said.
The Quakers had strong contributions from freshmen Alex Caldwell and Ronnie Bither. Caldwell finished with 13 kills, 14 digs and 16 assists for yet another triple-double, while Bither collected an 11-dig, 20-assist double-double.
On Saturday’s Senior Night against Brown (6-16, 2-10), the Red and Blue played a spirited match to usher out the team’s six seniors and came out on top, 3-1.
“One thing we’ve learned this season is how to bounce back quickly and move on from games that disappoint us and come back with successes,” Carr said.
Starting all six seniors, Penn (13-10, 8-4) came out slow, dropping the first match, 25-21. After knotting up the match at 1-1 after a 25-16 win, the Quakers never trailed again, winning the third and fourth matches with a score of 25-12 in both.
With Penn controlling the fourth match, Carr gave her seniors a curtain call. Fittingly, senior Lauren Davis had the last two points of the victory.
“We were able to get all our seniors back out there and keep that same chemistry, which I know was a special moment for the seniors and the entire team,” Carr said.
Junior Kristen Etterbeek had a big day, finishing with 20 kills and 17 digs.
“Kristen Etterbeek was absolutely unstoppable,” Carr said. “She was just killing their blockers.”
The freshmen were dominant yet again Saturday, with Bither contributing 32 assists and 12 digs. Caldwell had 12 digs of her own in addition to 23 assists and eight kills, narrowly missing back-to-back triple-doubles.
While Yale secured this year’s league title with its win over Princeton Saturday, the future looks bright for the Quakers.
“[Bither and Caldwell] have learned a ton from these seniors and are still learning,” Carr said. “The two freshmen who were welcomed onto the court as starters were even helped by players that had their positions taken over, and that was a huge part of our success this year. The seniors played a huge part in why Ronnie and Alex improved so much.”
The Quakers trail second-place rival Princeton by one game as they head to New York next weekend to wrap up the season against Columbia and Cornell.
“It comes down to our pride, and we’ll be hoping for Princeton to slip up in their last few games on the road as well,” Carr said. “We are right there with Yale, and we’re ready to build on the success we had this year.”