Coming off a tough five-set loss to Princeton on Friday, the Penn volleyball team needed a lift — and fast — against La Salle.
Enter Dani Shepherd.
Playing in her first game in since Sept. 10 after suffering a concussion, the senior captain had a productive return to the court, contributing 20 digs to help lift the Quakers (6-6) to a four-set victory over the woeful Explorers (1-19).
Though La Salle had not won a set in eight games since a 3-1 defeat against Temple on Sept.15, the Explorers stunned the Quakers early, using a trio of late kills from sophomore outside hitter Kelly Perillo to take the first set 25-21 and put the Red and Blue in a big hole.
However, Penn remained calm and allowed the game to come to them, capitalizing on six attack errors from the bumbling Explorers to easily take the second set, 25-14. Even when La Salle was able to get out of its own way, Arielle Winfield ensured that the Explorers could get no momentum, recording four kills in the set.
In the pivotal third set, Shepherd re-established her presence as one of Penn’s best players after a quiet opening to the match.
Shepherd recorded three of her five assists in the third set, including on Trina Ohms’ set-winning kill, as Penn took a 2-1 lead with the 25-21 set victory. Though the Explorers had managed to tie the set at 21, the Quakers asserted their late-game dominance, taking the set’s final four points and capping it off with Ohms’ kill.
Though the Explorers fought valiantly in the fourth set, taking leads of 8-3 and 10-4, they proved to be no match for the surging Quakers, who used an eight-point streak to turn an 11-10 deficit into an 18-11 lead that essentially ended the match. Though La Salle narrowed the deficit to 23-21, a pair of kills from Alexis Genske and Michellie McDonald-O’Brien sealed the deal for the Red and Blue.
The win puts the Quakers back at .500 with a daunting pair of Ivy road trips on the horizon.
This weekend, Penn will travel to the Empire State and take on Columbia and Cornell before heading to Connecticut and Rhode Island to match up against Yale and Brown the following week.
Though the schedule looks tough, and the brutal loss to Princeton puts Penn in a hole in the Ancient Eight, one gets the feeling that with Shepherd back, everything will be just fine.
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