In the third set of Penn volleyball’s matchup with Princeton on Saturday, coach Kerry Carr stepped onto the court to call a timeout with her team trailing 13-9, hoping to give it a chance to refocus in a pivotal set. But it only got worse from there.
Holding the Quakers to just 25 points in the final two sets combined, the Tigers were able to reverse the squads’ Sept. 25 result and defeat the Red and Blue, 3-1, at the Palestra.
Penn (9-11, 3-5 Ivy) opened the game strong, jumping out to a 6-0 advantage before Princeton (9-8, 4-4) called its first timeout. The Tigers battled back out of the timeout to knot the score at 13-all. After taking the lead from the Red and Blue, coach Sabrina King’s squad refused to let it go, fending off the Quakers to take the first set, 25-21.
In the second set, both teams went tit-for-tat, with only four points separating the two rivals at any point. Penn found itself fighting from behind for most of the set before a strong run forced Princeton to burn their first timeout, leading 22-21.
But the Red and Blue maintained their momentum out of the timeout, converting the next four points to take their first lead of the set before capturing it, 25-22.
Leading the way offensively for Penn was senior captain and rightside hitter Alex Caldwell, who had 11 kills in the match.
“I came in with the mindset that we had nothing to lose,” Caldwell said. “My coaches and teammates told me where to go on the court to give me more opportunities.”
With the score knotted at one apiece, the third set — like the two before it — featured more of the back-and-forth action that made it hard for either team to separate itself. After Carr’s timeout, however, the Tigers started to show why their offense leads the Ancient Eight in hitting percentage.
“Princeton got a lot better defensively,” Carr said. “They did a better job holding their composure when we went on runs.”
Highlighted by the outside hitting duo of Cara Mattaliano and Kendall Peterkin, the pair’s combined 39 kills helped pace the Tigers as they rattled off a 12-2 run to end the third set.
Down 2-1 in a decisive fourth set, the Quakers once again found themselves in a similar situation. Trailing by five at 13-8, Carr once again stepped on the court to signal timeout. But Penn was struck by a bout of deja vu as Princeton closed out the game with a 12-6 spurt to take the fourth set, 25-14.
The Tigers’ defense was able to mostly hold senior hitter Alexis Genske in check, limiting her to only seven kills out of 44 attempts. Overall, the team posted a .093 hitting percentage as their high volume shooting approach was stymied by Princeton.
“It comes down to us making errors,” Caldwell noted. “We have to find the balance between not making errors and staying aggressive.”
The second round robin through the Ivies has not gotten off on a great foot for the Quakers as the squad currently nurses a four-game losing streak. Sitting in sixth place in the Ancient Eight standings, the Red and Blue hope to use this week as a chance to get back on track before their next matchup with Harvard.
“We’re struggling with our confidence when things don’t go our way,” Carr said. “We are going to go into practice this week and get 10 times better.”
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