A slow start, a fierce comeback and a tough loss.
In many ways, the third set of Saturday’s match against Yale was a microcosm of the season for Penn’s volleyball team.
“We were going to lose, and instead, they play the most incredible ball and climb up out of it,” coach Kerry Carr said. “We didn’t have a miraculous ending like we have so many times before, but we were never out of it, and Yale had to play [its] hardest to beat us.”
Despite the run, the Quakers (14-11, 8-6 Ivy) fell in both of their matches this weekend against Brown (12-13, 8-6) and Yale (19-4, 11-1).
The losses ended Penn’s six-match winning streak and drops them into a tie for third place in the Ivy League with the Bears to end the season.
The first match of the weekend seemed promising for the Red and Blue as they climbed to an early two-set lead against Brown, whom they had swept earlier in the season.
However, it was not to be, as the Bears pulled out all the stops and came back to claim the final three sets in a stunning victory.
“I don’t think our record really shows what we’ve accomplished in the past year. We worked so hard the past spring, became closer, became stronger,” senior captain Kristen Etterbeek said. “We came up short a couple games, but the heart this team shows has been amazing.”
The Quakers then hosted Ivy League champion Yale on Saturday to close out their season. The Red and Blue struggled to keep up with a rampant Yale offense that gave them little breathing room.
“Yale was on fire, to give them credit. If they had an off night, we would have taken them,” Carr said. “The way we approached this game is the way we approached this season.
“We just fought, fought, fought.”
Penn lost the match in three sets despite strong performances from sophomore Alexis Genske and junior Trina Ohms, who combined for 16 kills. The Quakers struggled to get around Yale’s block, as the Elis had 11 team blocks and forced Penn into committing 25 errors.
As always, Penn relied on its senior leadership to get through the match, as Etterbeek and Dani Shepherd each contributed double-digit digs with 12 and 19, respectively. Susan Stuecheli was solid on the blocking end once again, adding a solo block and two block assists.
“These three seniors made a mark on the program that’s going to last,” Carr said. “We’re going to do it from the beginning this time and use that energy for good and really bottle it.
“I told the seniors that if we win a championship next year, it’ll be because of this, because of their leadership.”
The Quakers closed out a very successful season despite finishing on a downswing this weekend. Penn managed wins against every Ivy League team other than Yale and showed stretches of championship-level play throughout.
“It was an incredible run for us. With some injuries at the beginning of the season and [players] playing all different positions,” Carr said. “I was really proud how we persevered through the end here and our seniors, who could have been upset that they weren’t going to win a championship, decided to play the hardest.”
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