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Junior opposite hitter Madison Goldstein had three consecutive aces in the first set against Brown.

Credit: Annie Luo

Sometimes close just isn’t close enough. 

For Penn volleyball, that was certainly the case on Saturday. The Quakers lost to Brown in a tight five-set match at the Palestra after falling to Yale in straight sets the previous day. 

The defeats continued a rough stretch for the Red and Blue (3-11, 0-3 Ivy), who have now lost six matches in a row and 10 of their last 11. However, Saturday’s loss actually represented some progress for the Quakers, who scored more total points than Brown (8-5, 1-2) and won two sets for the first time since their last win against Delaware State on September 11. 

Penn was strong early on in the match, going on a 7-0 run in the middle of the first set behind three consecutive aces from junior opposite hitter Madison Goldstein. A 25-23 victory in the opener was followed by a more comfortable 25-17 win in the second, as senior middle hitter Brooke Behrbaum gave the team a quick 8-3 lead with five kills. 

Unfortunately for the Quakers, the next two frames were not as productive, with the Bears coming out on top 25-22 and 26-24 to force the match to a decisive fifth set. A deadlocked 13-13 score put the Red and Blue mere inches from victory, but they dropped the final two points to lose in heartbreaking fashion. 

The stark turnaround in the final three sets soured Penn’s performance significantly, but it was still much improved over the one turned in against Yale (8-4, 1-1) on Friday. The Quakers were never truly in the match, as the Bulldogs went on an early 7-1 run to go up 16-6 in the first frame and never looked back. 

A 25-10 opening victory for Yale paved the way for a closer but still comfortable 25-19 win in the second. The Bulldogs didn’t let up, cruising to a 25-18 win in the third set for a clean sweep. 

The Quakers can take some encouragement from their improvement the next day against Brown, and their upcoming schedule could give them a chance for some success. Next weekend, Penn will take on Harvard and Dartmouth, which have struggled so far this season. The Crimson (5-7, 0-3) have lost three consecutive matches against Ivy League opponents while the Big Green (5-8, 1-2) have dropped three of their last four matches. 

If Penn keeps improving, it might be able to go from close to over the finish line. 

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