Consider the Palestra defended.
Penn volleyball secured its first home victory of the season over Delaware State by a score of 3-1. It was a particularly good night for the hitters as Daily Pennsylvanian staffer Parker Jones, sophomore Raven Sulaimon, and freshman Daniela Fornaciari hit .325, .519, and .429, respectively.
The Quakers (3-5) outlasted a pesky Hornets (1-10) team that would not go away. Neither team was able to create much separation throughout the tightly contested match – six points was the largest lead for either team all night.
In the first set, the Red and Blue jumped out to an early 7-2 lead behind kills from Parker Jones and Raven Sulaimon. However, the Hornets struck back with their own attack and took the lead 9-10.
But the Quakers would not be denied.
The Red and Blue went on a 10-3 run fueled by kills from Madison Goldstein, Taylor Cooper, Jones, and Sulaimon. The Quakers would not relinquish the lead from that point on and they took the set, 25-21.
The second set was a back and forth battle early on. Delaware State began to feed sophomore hitter Mayah Ngundam, and it paid off, giving the Hornets the lead at 13-12.
The Red and Blue responded, at least for the time being. Following a timeout, freshman setter Kylie Kulinski set up Sulaimon for a rocket through the opposing defense and it seemed Penn would start to run away.
But the Hornets seized the momentum right back, going on a 5-0 run to take the lead 18-14. Delaware State held the lead and had set point at 23-24. But a timely kill from Sulaimon negated the threat and following back-to-back errors from the Hornets, Penn stole the second set 26-24.
The third set followed a similar script to that of the second, except the Red and Blue found themselves down 10-15.
Following another timeout, the Quakers responded. Scoring with a balanced attack which included a service ace from freshman Carmina Raquel, the Red and Blue went on a 13-4 run to take the lead 23-19.
When it looked like the Quakers were ready to close out the set 24-22, the Hornets were not ready to go home. Delaware State squared the match at 24 and had a multiple set points of their own before taking the third set 26-28.
Despite the Red and Blue being able to pull away, the fourth set never felt very close after Penn took the lead at 8-7 and didn't give it back. Fornaciari added four kills in the set to help pace the Red and Blue, including the game winning kill to seal the victory.
Fornaciari headlined a group of freshmen who saw significant playing time including Kulinski, Raquel, and Margaret Planek.
“I think all four of the freshmen that were on the court tonight all [stepped] up in their own way, positionally,” coach Iain Braddak said. “It was really cool to see [Fornaciari] continue to get those kills [and] continue to be a player we can count on to score us some points.”
Indeed, the group had career games in their albeit short careers. Kulinski set a career high in assists with 48, Racquel fell just one shy of her career high in digs with 12, and Fornaciari finished with seven kills, one shy of her career high thus far.
The rise of the freshmen can only aid the Red and Blue as they continue to prepare for the upcoming Ivy League season.
“There are no limits to what we can accomplish this season,” Braddak said. “Tonight’s match really showed us what we’re capable of and where the growth areas for us are.”
The Quakers will look to build on this victory in the Mountaineer Classic with games against Morehead State, Wake Forest, and West Virginia next weekend.
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