It’s that time of year again.
On Friday, Penn volleyball traveled up to Princeton, N.J. to face the Tigers in their first Ivy League match of the season, and Princeton ultimately reigned victorious by a 3-0 score.
Last season against Princeton, Penn lost all six sets in the two games the teams faced each other, with none of the point spreads being particularly close. Penn has not won a set against the Tigers since 2016 and hasn't won a match in four years.
Despite the recent history, not everyone on the Red and Blue were intimidated.
“I was feeling really confident coming into the match,” freshman outside hitter Autumn Leak said. “Usually I’m kind of an antsy person, but coming into this game, I wasn’t nervous at all, I felt really confident.”
“I was definitely a little nervous going in just being a freshman and all, and knowing it’s a great team we were about to play," freshman Caroline Douglas said. “But I just looked to my teammates to calm me down and reassure me that I can do it and it’s just another team."
The first set this year was closer than last season. Princeton scored the first two points of the game, but after a back-and-fourth sequence, the Quakers were able to bring the score to 10-10. Sophomore opposite hitter Margaret Planek pushed Penn over the edge to lead, 13-12, with her second ace of the evening, but the Tigers quickly regained supremacy. The largest lead to that point had been two points, but Princeton quickly pulled away to win the set, 20-25.
The second set continued the theme, with Penn taking a late 18-15 lead into a Princeton timeout, before the Tigers rallied to win the set 26-24. Penn's success and failures in the set both came in part at the service line, where junior outside hitter Parker Jones, who is also a Daily Pennsylvanian staffer, held serve for six consecutive points during a Penn run. The Quakers finished with six service errors and five aces in the match.
The third set was less even-matched, as Princeton took an early 7-2 lead, forcing Penn into an early timeout. The Quakers stayed behind for the rest of the set, making small runs only to be stunted by the Tigers. The set ended with a score of 25-18 in favor of Princeton to complete the Tigers' three-set sweep.
Ultimately, Penn couldn't find a way to stop Princeton’s attacking trio of senior Devon Peterkin, junior Clare Lenihan, and sophomore Elena Montgomery, who combined for 37 of the team's 45 kills. Each of the three finished with double digit kills, while the Red and Blue did not have any players who reached that mark.
“We definitely had to adjust our defense and block a lot based on what Princeton was hitting,” Douglas said. “I think they’re some of the best hitters I’ve played against.”
Among those who contributed the most points for Penn were Planek and Leak. Planek led the way with 14 points, while Leak contributed eight kills and a crucial block.
“Tonight, which I’m sure will be the case for many nights in the future, we were looking to Autumn to get some of our big plays and our big kills,” Douglas said. “She really handled having a big right side blocker on her, and finding the ground. I also think she passed really well.”
Next Friday, the Quakers will welcome Cornell and Columbia to the Palestra as they continue through this year’s season of Ivy play.
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