Penn volleyball staves off Cornell in five-set victory
Alex Caldwell's all-around performance helps Quakers beat Big Red for second time
November 1, 2013, 9:35 pm·
It was déjà vu for Penn Volleyball.
Nearly a month after defeating Cornell in five sets in Ithaca, the Quakers found themselves in a similar back and forth affair. Once again, Penn prevailed taking a five-set victory over the Big Red.
The win is the Quakers’ (11-9, 5-4 Ivy) third straight Ivy League victory following last weekend’s sweep of Princeton. The win moves the Quakers into sole control of third place in the Ivy League, while the loss leaves Cornell (7-12, 3-6) solidly within the bottom half.
Penn jumped ahead to a 9-2 lead in the first set behind strong hitting from sophomore outside hitter Jasmine DeSilva and incredible team defense. Cornell clawed back within 3 points at 23-20 but the Red and Blue were able to hold on 25-21 in a set not quite as close as the score suggests.
The second set began with the Big Red firing strong, pulling ahead to an 8-3 lead. However, junior middle blocker Kendall Turner entered the game for the Quakers and fired off 3 straight kills to spark Penn as the team rallied to tie the set at 15.
“I know how well [Kendall] plays every day in practice, because she beats us up all the time,” coach Kerry Carr said. “It was fun to see her come out and play that way.”
Penn eventually fell in the second set 25-20, as Cornell evened the match at one set apiece. The Big Red’s dominant blocking factored in to their effective play as they tallied four blocks and altered many other attacks from Penn.
“Cornell brought their ‘A’ game’ to play us and they didn’t roll over when we came out strong,” Carr said. “They just started hitting better, and playing their game and we had to adjust.”
Cornell carried its momentum into the third set building a strong 7-3 lead, before the Quakers came back to take the lead at 13-12.
The Red and Blue never looked back, holding onto that lead for the rest of the set as they held off the Big Red for a 25-22 victory.
With the momentum behind them once again, Penn seemed poised to close out the match in the fourth set as they claimed an 11-6 lead behind efficient offensive play. As happened so many times over the course of this match, the momentum didn’t last as Cornell went on to win the set 25-21 with sophomore Breanna Wong providing seven kills.
“Breanna Wong was unbelievable and we couldn’t stop her, so we had to learn how to stop for everybody else and just block her one or two times.” Carr said.
When it came down to it, the Quakers got hot at the right time. The fifth set proved to be much more one-sided than the rest of the match as Penn jumped to a 10-2 lead and closed out the set 15-4 thanks to strong hitting from senior outside hitter Kristen Etterbeek and Turner.
“We got to a new level of play tonight,” Etterbeek said. “We picked up our intensity, we picked up our fight, and we had a lot of individuals step up really aggressively.”
Etterbeek’s 16 kills led the Red and Blue, while sophomore setter Alex Caldwell provided a little bit of everything for the Quakers, posting eight kills, 34 assists, 20 digs, five service aces and even a pair of assisted blocks.
“People have stepped up their game all the way around. I like wins when it’s a total team effort like that,” Carr said. “That’s how we beat teams they have one great player and we have six.”
Wong led the offense for the Big Red, knocking in 22 kills on a remarkable .442 hitting percentage. Wong also contributed 20 digs and seven block assists. Alyssa Phelps – who leads the Ivy League in assists – finished with a game-high 49 assists for Cornell.
Penn closes out the weekend by facing Columbia at the Palestra Saturday night.