Following a tough loss to Dartmouth on Friday, Penn volleyball mustered up a strong comeback to beat the Harvard Crimson (9-10, 6-4 Ivy) the very next day. This win marks the end of the Quakers' five-game losing streak and potentially a new upward trend.
Against Dartmouth (12-7, 4-6), the Quakers (6-13, 3-7) were swept in three consecutive sets, with the third and final set finishing by a close four-point margin. Despite dropping all three sets, the team held on for a while and continued to recover when adversity kept striking. In particular, junior Madeline McGregor was critical to the offensive output, hitting a career high 20 kills over the course of the match. Senior Kylie Kulinski and freshman Sydney Ormiston also greatly contributed with 23 and eight assists, respectively.
In the first set, after exchanging points up until the score was 9-9, Dartmouth gathered momentum for quick three-to-four point runs that eventually led to the final score of 25-20. McGregor contributed 10 kills in the first set, but it was not enough to secure a victory. During the second set, Dartmouth used their momentum from the first to garner a quick lead of seven points. The Quakers struggled to recover as the gap grew to over 10 points, only managing to secure 13 points over the course of the set. In the final set, the Quakers regained their composure, with freshman Ormiston stepping onto the court. Dartmouth continued to have short runs, but the Quakers stayed in it, continuing to recover and nearly getting within three points of Dartmouth's sweep.
The Big Green may have walked away with another victory, but something was ignited in the Red and Blue that led to victory over Harvard the following day.
The Quakers opened strongly against a tough Harvard team (9-10) that had beaten the Big Green just a week before. McGregor and Kulinski continued their ruthless onslaught with McGregor recording nine kills, seven digs, and this season’s team record of four aced serves and Kulinski accumulating a spectacular 48 assists, setting up nearly half of the total points scored by the Quakers. Junior captain Autumn Leak, senior Daniela Fornaciari, and senior captain Margaret Planek were dangerous forces themselves, with Leak notching a staggering 21 kills and Fornaciari and Planek making 12 and 13 of their own, respectively.
The match was not an easy win, however, despite the incredible attacking plays by the Red and Blue. In the first two sets, Penn dominated enough to force a Crimson timeout during the first set. Similar to Dartmouth’s pattern, the Quakers used a combination of short runs to cruise to victory. In the third set, however, the Crimson rebounded, pulling ahead with a momentum that carried into the fourth. Harvard took the fourth set, finishing the Red and Blue with a pair of kills that left the Quakers at an eight-point deficit. The Crimson secured both the third and fourth sets, leading to a 2-2 score and a fifth and final tie-break game to 15.
It was at this point that the Quakers found a way to step up. Senior captain Carmina Raquel played a strong defense, contributing 20 digs over the course of the match, and Planek, McGregor, and Leak continued their aggressive attacks. The Quakers led 17-16 when Planek served and made an assist to McGregor, securing a victory for the Red and Blue.
Penn will be traveling again next weekend to take on the Yale Bulldogs (14-5, 7-3) on Friday and the Brown Bears (16-4, 9-1) on Saturday.