Penn volleyball brought in the fall season with a late fall of their own against a resilient Princeton squad on Saturday night at the Palestra.
After battling back to force a decisive fifth set in their Ivy opener, the Tigers (7-3, 1-0 Ivy) took control late en route to a victory over the Quakers.
The Red and Blue (5-8, 0-1) drew first blood by taking a close first set by the score of 25-21 despite posting a slightly lower hitting percentage than the Tigers.
In an effort to climb back into the game, the defending Ivy League co-champs began to take a much more aggressive approach at the net. Freshman Maggie O’Connell and senior Brittany Ptak formed a powerful duo that gave the Quaker defense trouble all night.
“Their slide was really good,” junior libero Michelle Pereira said. “They had two big hitters that don’t care if they make errors.”
The next two sets were all Princeton as they compiled a hitting percentage above .400 in consecutive sets. With no answer from the Quakers, the Tigers won the next two sets by double digits and put Penn on the brink of defeat.
With the situation looking bleak for her team, Penn coach Kerry Carr challenged her team to find a way to get back into the game. The team responded emphatically in the fourth set.
“We answered them in set four,” Carr said. “That was one of the best, best sets I’ve seen them play all year.”
After forcing the fifth set, Princeton was able to recapture that same offensive firepower that gave Penn trouble in the second and third sets. After taking an early lead, the Tigers never looked back before finally putting the Quakers away, 15-5.
The experience of Princeton proved to be the difference in the match as Penn struggled to answer when the Tigers went on their runs. Despite the loss, the team sees plenty of positives to take away moving forward in Ivy play.
“We’re right there with them, but sustainability with such a young team is up and down,” Carr added. “I have no doubt next time we see them we’ll be able to sustain what we need to.”
Starting the Ancient Eight slate in the hole may not be the ideal start, but the Red and Blue aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel on their season.
“Four teams lost today,” Pereira said. “One loss at the beginning of the season doesn’t really mean much to us.”
On a team devoid of seniors, some of the younger players have been forced to step up such as freshman outside hitter Caroline Furrer. Putting up double-double with 13 kills and 19 digs, Furrer was a key component of Penn’s near upset of Princeton.
“I was really proud with how everyone came together and supported each other tonight,” Furrer added. “That’s one great thing about Penn: everyone contributes to our success.”
In addition to the strong underclass contributions, juniors such as Pereira have stepped up to provide leadership to their younger peers. Penn’s starting libero continued to anchor the defense, leading the way with 22 digs while also contributing a couple service aces along the way.
“We’re not missing leadership at all,” Carr added. “We have a lot of positivity and shoutouts after every practice and game which we’ve never really had before.”
Looking ahead, both players and coaches alike are ready to tackle the next step in their development this season.
“We’re very excited,” Furrer said. “We learned our new limits today and we’re ready to execute those more often.”
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