On Friday night at the Palestra, Penn women’s volleyball opened up their second half of Ivy League play against rival Princeton.
In the two teams’ earlier meeting this year, the Tigers emerged with a three-set victory. Friday night’s result was no different, as Princeton (11-6, 7-1 Ivy) defeated the Quakers (9-8, 2-6) in three sets.
Despite what the final score may suggest, it was Penn who took control early in the first set. Sophomore opposite hitter Margaret Planek and junior middle hitter Caroline Leng each tallied three kills as the Quakers jumped out to a 9-4 lead. After both teams traded a few points, the Tigers responded with an 10-2 run that forced Penn to call a timeout. Following the timeout, the Quakers regained momentum and narrowed the score, but were unable to close out the set as Princeton hung on to win, 25-19.
For this year’s Quakers, closing out sets has been the difference between winning and losing sets.
“Sometimes we start off really strong. We have this thing called putting our foot on the gas pedal. I think we just need to finish out our gas tank,” Leng said. “[We need to] just blow through the 15-20, 20-25 points [range]. That’s what we struggled with in the first half [of Ivy play].”
In the match’s second set, the Quakers were once again faced with an opportunity to close out a tight set. Both teams exchanged points for the majority of the set, as neither team could establish enough momentum to mount a serious run. As the teams approached the deciding 25-point mark, the score was knotted at 23. Needing to win by two, Princeton gained an advantage when a Lindsey Kelly service ace gave the Tigers a 24-23 lead. Penn immediately responded with a kill by junior outside hitter Parker Jones, who is also a DP staffer. However, in familiar fashion, the Quakers’ failed to close it out, as a pair of errors allowed Princeton to win the set, 26-24.
“The biggest thing is just finishing,” freshman opposite hitter Autumn Leak said. “We were right there; we just needed two points each set and that would have gotten us the game. We just need to close out, because it just comes down to the details.”
Similar to the second set, the third set was a back-and-forth affair, as neither team gained an advantage over the other. The Quakers’ effort was propelled by the efforts of Leak and Leng, who each recorded eight kills. Although the set was closely contested from start to finish, it was the Tigers who escaped with both the set — by a tight 25-22 margin — and the match.
Princeton’s victory was headlined by strong performances from Natasha Skov, Devon Peterkin, and Maggie O’Connell, who all put up double-digit kills. Offensively, the Tigers were organized and efficient as they were rarely forced out of system. On the other hand, the Quakers found their biggest problem to be the disruptive Princeton attack, which forced them to abandon their predetermined systems.
“We need to stay in system more. We couldn’t really get Princeton out of their system as much,” Leak said. “They were in system [while] we were kind of running for balls. [We] were a little scrappy and chaotic. Instead of them getting us out of system, we [need to] be the team getting them out of system.”
In spite of Friday’s tough loss, the Quakers are confident in their game plan moving forward.
“I think we’ve definitely cut down on a lot of the errors we had in the first half,” Leng said. “[If] we keep on doing what we’re doing on the court right now, I think for the next half of the Ivies, we’ll do really well.”
The Red and Blue will look to improve their standing in the Ivy League next weekend as they travel to take on Columbia and Cornell.
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