Despite a valiant effort from the Quakers in a close matchup against the Tigers on Friday night, Penn volleyball lost against Princeton in their second match against each other of the season.
Losing 0-3 in September against Princeton (13-3, 7-1 Ivy), Penn (5-12, 2-6) was hoping to break its losing streak with their Ivy rival tonight after losses to Brown, Yale, and Cornell but came up short in the fifth set.
Although Princeton had a few bad serves in the first set and gave Penn three points, the Tiger’s strong performance and consistency lead them to gain a considerable lead. Penn had to call timeout twice, once at 6-11 and another at 13-20, to regroup. Despite this, Princeton decisively won the first set, 13-25, with an almost 1:2 ratio in scores.
Penn started out the second set strong as the re-energized team briefly gained a lead, but Princeton regained their footing, taking kills to undefended areas. Penn had to call two timeouts once again when they were trailing 6-12 and 8-18. Combined with a solid defense and some errors on the Quakers’ part, the Tigers also took the second set, 25-14.
However, in the third set, it seemed that the Quakers really took the halftime to reflect on their mistakes in the first two sets and they came back strong. The Quakers found a groove, thanks to solid teamwork and consistent assists from senior Kylie Kulinski.
The third set also found Quakers serving multiple aces, courtesy of sophomore Emerson Flornes, junior Madeline McGregor, and senior Carly Cohen, with many of Penn’s points in the third quarter coming from aces. McGregor even had two aces in a row.
Penn’s sudden energy caused Princeton to call two timeouts in the set, first when Penn was leading 12-8 and again when Penn remained strong at 19-16. Although the Quakers faltered a bit at the end of the set, a service error from Princeton and a solid kill by junior Autumn Leak gave Penn its first set win against Princeton since September 2016.
“The whole senior house was playing tonight, and I think we really took it to heart that this is the last time we wanted to play Princeton, and so we wanted to come out and make a statement,” senior Daniela Fornaciari said on the turnaround after the first half.
“We decided to go aggressive at them at the service line, and I think the players did a really good job tonight and it definitely made the third quarter a lot different than it's been in previous matches,” head coach Meredith Schamun said.
Leak continued her consistent kills in the fourth set, and Penn began the set with a solid lead. A controversial call for Princeton when Penn was leading 9-7 gave the Tigers a chance to come back, briefly regaining ground and scoring three consecutive points against the Quakers, bringing the total to 10-9.
The Quakers did not relent, however, and responded to Princeton by scoring four times, causing Princeton to call a timeout at 13-10. From then on, the Tigers continued to make errors, giving the Red and Blue an edge. After a Princeton timeout at 16-10, the Quakers kept their momentum going to bring the score to 24-15.
At set point is where the Quakers and Tigers started the longest play of the night. Continual errors on Penn’s side gave Princeton the ability to match them, 24-24. From there, both teams went back and forth, with one squad reaching set point only for the other team to undo it. Finally, after 12 rounds of back and forth, the Quakers snatched the fourth set, thanks to Fornaciari, delivering the final kill for the Quakers to win the set by a margin of two points, 32-30.
“I was really trying to focus on staying calm and staying disciplined and doing everything I can for my teammates because I thought the service was really good,” Fornaciari said, commenting on the intense fourth set.
By that point, however, it appeared that both teams were beginning to show signs of fatigue, and upon starting the fifth set, both teams were merely repeating the end of the previous set, with both teams scoring back and forth. Penn reached set point first, 14-13, and although the Red and Blue gave a visible effort, Princeton ended up prevailing 16-14, narrowing beating the Quakers.
“[The team] can go out and beat at their place if we're able to bring the same intensity we finished within this match,” Schamun said, despite the loss.
Fornaciari, the player with the highest hitting percentage of the game with .367, notes that she took away a few crucial tidbits from the game.
“[We have] confidence going into the rest of league play, and knowing that we can fight back, even if we’re two sets down, and knowing that we can all lean on each other and fight some of these really good teams in the Ivy League,” Fornaciari said.
The Red and Blue will be hoping to beat Dartmouth in an away game next week.