Eating Thanksgiving dinners, opening holiday gifts, and Penn playing Princeton in the Palestra are all time-honored traditions. Sometimes though, the turkey burns, you don’t get the gift you hoped for, or Princeton walks away with a win on Penn’s historic home court.
On Friday, for the 18th consecutive year, Penn volleyball opened its Ivy League season against Princeton. And for the second year, the Quakers were swept in three straight sets.
“We have 24 people in this program who work exceptionally hard every single day, day in and day out,” coach Iain Braddak said. “As we prepared for the match, we sort of looked back and said the preparation for this match began August 15th, first day of preseason.”
Unfortunately for the Red and Blue (3-9, 0-1 Ivy), the reigning Ivy League champions have been training as well — and that was evident from the very beginning as the Tigers (8-4, 1-0) scored the first two points of the match.
Kills by senior middle hitter Taylor Cooper and sophomore outside hitter Parker Jones, who is also a staffer for The Daily Pennsylvanian, tied up the first set momentarily, but Princeton soon broke away. A difficult dig by sophomore outside hitter Raven Sulaimon helped cut the Tigers' lead to 14-10, but Princeton responded to finish out the set 25-18.
Set two showed more promise for Penn, as the Quakers went up fast to take an early 3-0 lead before the Tigers clawed their way back. After Princeton established a lead in the back end of the set, junior opposite hitter Madison Goldstein cut the gap to just three points before Princeton scored the set's final four points to come out on top 25-19.
It looked as if the third set might be the charm for the Quakers, but the Tigers were able to earn the win — despite a pair of off-the-court digs by Sulaimon that kept Penn in striking distance. After the Red and Blue scored four straight points to tie the set at 13-13, the set featured nine other ties before Princeton finished the match with a 28-26 win.
Despite the loss, Jones reflected similarly on the a newfound team mentality found.
“It was a big team effort, I feel like this was the first time we came together as a team,” Jones said. “Even though we lost, it doesn’t feel like all the other losses we’ve had. We’ve changed our mentality to just ‘fighting for it’ now.”
The Quakers will continue Ivy play next weekend, with Yale and Brown in the coming weekend. As for preparation, Braddak already has the week mapped out to improve the team’s performance.
“As we look to Monday through Thursday for practice, we will definitely emphasize a little bit more of our front row play, in terms of blocking and making sure we’re catching those blocking assignments, and really stopping the ball at the net,” Braddak said. “That’s going to be our number one priority.”
The Quakers will get their chance at a rematch against the Tigers in mid-October.
Even if you realize you have to choose a new turkey recipe, make a new wish-list, or work on stopping the ball at the net, at least you learned something for next time the tradition rolls around.
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