PRINCETON, N.J. -- Strong defense can often make up for a mediocre offense, but that's a moot point if a team's defense isn't playing up to its potential either. That was the scenario on Friday night as the Penn volleyball team fell to Princeton in straight games for the second season in a row. With the win, Princeton joins Cornell atop the Ancient Eight as the Quakers slipped to fourth place. Penn (17-7, 3-2 Ivy League) knew Princeton (14-7, 4-1) had a punishing offense. But the Quakers traveled to Dillon Gym in Princeton, N.J., believing they had a chance because of their equally tough defense. That strong defense did not show up until the third game at Old Nassau, however. "In the first two games, we had trouble adjusting," Penn coach Kerry Major said. "We weren't disciplined in where we had to go." In the first game, tough serving from Princeton senior Sabrina King gave the Tigers an early 5-1 lead. The lead would grow to 7-2 before Penn responded. On two consecutive plays, junior middle blocker Kelly Szczerba stuffed Princeton hitters, closing the gap to 7-4 and forcing Princeton coach Glenn Nelson to call a timeout. Nelson's timeout had immediate results. After a King kill produced a sideout, Princeton freshman Kerry Song came in off the bench to serve. Her use of the float serve -- a type of serve with no rotational spin and a lot of directional movement -- brought the momentum back to Princeton's side. That momentum would be enough to carry the Tigers to victory in the first game, 15-6. Penn would respond in the second game, though. By capitalizing on several Princeton hitting errors, the Quakers jumped out to a 6-0 lead. The Tigers would come back by relying on freshman outside hitter Kellie Cramm, who ended the night with a match-high 22 kills. Princeton's back row also acrobatically dug several bullets from Penn's key hitters, and the Tigers went on to win the second game, 15-9. "They had great defense," Szczerba said. "We would go up and hit the ball so hard, and they would bring it back five or six times." The third game was much closer than the previous two. After several lead changes, the Quakers found themselves serving for the game at 14-12. On the ensuing play, the first referee ruled that King hit the ball out of bounds, and the Quakers started celebrating their victory in the third game. However, the second referee overruled the call, saying that one of Penn's players touched the ball. Eventually, Penn ended up dropping the third game, 16-14, and the match along with it. "Even though I disagree with the call [at 14-12], that is not why we lost," Major said. One of the reasons Penn lost was that its backrow players had problems digging Princeton's hitters throughout the match. Penn played a "perimeter defense" -- where the back row players are situated on the court's perimeter to dig a kill -- characteristic of most collegiate volleyball teams. However, most of the balls that dropped were at the center. Penn failed to adjust its defensive strategy and suffered the consequences. "We just hit where they weren't," King said. "You have to know where the block is, and hit around them, hit off their block, and tip." Nonetheless, King recognized Penn's formidable talent. "Penn is good," she said. "If they are playing at the top of their game, they're pretty much our hardest game in the Ivy League." The Quakers also had problems shutting down 6'0" junior Ana Yeorg, Princeton's southpaw setter. Yeorg caught Penn players off-guard several times during the match by using her height advantage to deceptively attack the ball on the second touch. Penn's final away match of the regular season will be against La Salle tomorrow at 7 p.m.Comments powered by Disqus
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