For much of the first set, the scoreboard at the Palestra told a deceptive tale about the volleyball game taking place. In every stat category, from kills to aces, there were zeros up for both teams.
Once the problem was fixed by the end of the night, almost every number was in Penn’s favor, including the all important one — sets won.
Rallying from behind two sets to none and closing the deficit in a fifth-set tie break to 13 all, Penn ultimately pulled out the victory, winning, 3-2.
The Quakers (1-3) stayed in every set and it paid off, as they outlasted the Blue Hens (4-3).
“To see our hard efforts paid off, whether we did it in three sets, four sets or five sets, this win is super important,” coach Kerry Carr said.
In the first, Penn was down just two at 19-17 before a double-touch from the Quakers killed the team’s momentum for the rest of the set, which they ultimately lost, 25-21.
The first set ultimately came down to miscues for Penn. Due to poor positioning from the Red and Blue, the Quakers had only eight digs to the Blue Hens’ 15.
While Penn was better defensively in the second, they still didn’t have enough of an offensive game to match Delaware.
“We were playing scared,” sophomore Alex Caldwell said.
Penn stepped up to the plate in the third set, putting Delaware on the defensive. The Blue Hawks didn’t have an answer for a cleaner, more polished Penn attack in the third, in which Penn jumped out to a lead as large as seven. Ultimately, Penn took the set, 25-19.
The Quakers had a match-high 14 kills in the third set.
By the end of the third, Penn closed the deficit in terms of digs, which helped its ability to take the third set. After the first, the Red and Blue had just eight digs, but by the end of the third, Penn totaled 49.
Freshman Arielle Winfield contributed in a big way as well, finishing the match with 12 assists and four kills.
The Quakers continued its momentum into the fourth set, leading throughout until Delaware went on a run of its own to tie it up. The teams traded points, with Winfield getting a solo block to keep Penn on track, until Penn rattled off two straight to take the set, 26-24.
Penn somehow took the fourth set with a .000 hitting percentage. The Quakers had 11 kills and 11 attack errors during the set.
“We had to do risky stuff,” Carr said. “But those end up in winning ballgames.”
The Red and Blue rode the momentum from the fourth set into the tie break, jumping out to a 3-0 lead, but they couldn’t hold on the whole way. A lot of Penn’s shots went long, letting the Blue Hens back into a match. But thanks to great play from senior Dani Shepherd and sophomore Alex Caldwell, the Quakers took the victory
While it wasn’t a clean win, it’ll be one that Penn remembers going forward.
“We’re going to take that feeling of what it’s like to win,” Carr said. “And use it for our next match.”
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