The drought is over, and for Penn volleyball, it’s cause for celebration.
The Quakers secured their first and second Ivy League victories of coach Iain Braddak's tenure at the Palestra this weekend, beating Columbia 3-0 and Cornell 3-1. The pair of wins ended an eight-game losing streak.
Penn (5-13, 2-5 Ivy) dominated the Lions (9-8, 3-4) throughout the match, in the three-set sweep. Aside from scoring the first two points in the match, which ended in a score of 25-16, Columbia didn’t lead again until the third and final set.
“We had some conversations early on in the week and really set our priorities straight. We certainly had to do this systematically with a really deliberate and intentional approach,” Braddak said. “Things clicked. It was amazing to watch.”
The second set mirrored the first, as Penn’s confidence on the court took over. Junior libero captain Caroline Furrer brought the Quakers to a comfortable eight point lead following three consecutive aces and a productive fourth serve, eventually leading the team to a 25-15 victory.
In the third, Columbia gave the Quakers a run for their money in a much tighter set, as the Lions took one-point leads multiple times. The Quakers struggled to pull away, until a critical kill by sophomore outside hitter Parker Jones, who is also a Daily Pennsylvanian staffer, pushed the Quakers ahead for good.
Braddak, who served as Columbia’s assistant coach last season, said that coaching against his previous team helped inform his players against them.
Heading into the second match, Penn’s offensive efforts continued to prove successful — having led in kills in the first match by 17, the Quakers did so again in the second by five, in no small part due to the performance of sophomore outside hitter Raven Sulaimon, with 12 kills during the Columbia match and 17 kills in the match against Cornell (8-8, 4-3), which tied a career best.
“What’s interesting and important to remember with volleyball is that it’s a team sport. For Raven to have those kills, she is working her tail off, her teammates are pushing her, and people like [senior setter] Grace James are putting up really solid sets," Braddak said. "[Our success] is because of the team.”
Against Cornell, the Quakers lost their first set in a close game, ending in a score of 25-23.
However, Penn defeated the Big Red in the next three sets, bringing them a second win for the weekend. In the second set, Jones led the team in getting five points in a row early, pushing them ahead. The Quakers maintained their slim lead throughout the set, which ended in a score of 25-22.
The fourth and final set in the match was a close one, despite the Red and Blue starting off with 3 points in a row and securing a 7-point lead at 19-12.
As Cornell began to catch up, it looked like the Big Red had a solid chance at surpassing Penn in a game that, moments earlier, felt comfortable for the Quakers. However, in a nail-biting finish, Penn defeated Cornell in the set 25-23, which gave them the win for the match.
“These women are resilient beyond belief ... to watch their commitment and to see how much they support one another, I’m in awe,” Braddak said.
The Quakers hope to build on their first two Ivy wins next weekend against defending Ivy League champion Princeton.