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Penn Volleyball team celebrates in the middle of the court after they won their match against Dartmouth at the Palestra after an eight-game losing streak on Oct. 2. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

For the first time in a month, the Quakers emerged victorious.

On Saturday night at the Palestra, Penn volleyball snapped an eight-game losing streak dating back to Sept. 10 — in dramatic fashion no less, taking Dartmouth to five sets and winning the thrilling final set by a score of 15-13. 

A consistent theme so far this season, the Quakers (4-8, 1-2 Ivy) started off the game slow, falling to a quick 8-1 deficit in the early moments of the game. 

“We have to improve the start of our games,” coach Meredith Schamun said. “I think winning in five is very good, but we want to make sure we try to better that by winning in four or winning in three next time, so working on starting strong and coming out of the gates a little bit faster.”

Having to play catch-up for the majority of the first set, the Red and Blue were unable to overcome the early Dartmouth (8-4, 0-3 Ivy) lead, losing the first set 25-17. It seemed as if the Quakers’ narrative would be the same as it had been the past month.

But Penn came roaring back.

After a quick 3-0 lead for the Quakers to start the second set, the Big Green brought it back to a 5-5 standstill. It was a back and forth battle from there on with each team more or less trading points, and neither team building a lead greater than two — until the final moments of the set when the Quakers separated themselves by winning five of the last six points to win the set 25-22.

Starting the third set, the Red and Blue found themselves once again in a back and forth battle trading points with Dartmouth. Tied 8-8, Penn took control of the set. Taking the next point, the Quakers would not surrender the lead for the rest of the set, winning it 25-17.

“We’ve sadly become used to the slow start. We knew that if we did not change quickly, we would have the same result that we have had recently. So, in the absence of a strong start, we still have to find a way to make it work. I think that motivation in and of itself propelled us to the next level and helped us win,” Schamun said. 

But that win did not come easy.

Even with the momentum of winning the second and third sets, the Quakers were unable to finish the match in four. Resembling much of the first set, the Red and Blue fell to a quick 8-2 deficit in the fourth and were never able to bring it back, losing the set 25-16.

With a boisterous crowd behind them, the Red and Blue and the Big Green fought back and forth for the final and game-winning set. Dartmouth started with a 6-1 lead, and it seemed all too familiar for the Quakers. But Penn clawed back to tie it 8-8. It seemed as if neither team would give until a reception error and bad set by Dartmouth allowed the Quakers to pull away. 

Once again, junior outside hitter Autumn Leak led the way for the Quakers in their victory, finishing the game with 14 kills and 13 digs. Senior Daniela Fornaciari led the team with 11 blocks while senior Kylie Kulinski led the team with 24 assists. 

“This was a huge win for us. We have been on a losing streak. We’ve beat Dartmouth the last time we played them here my freshman year, so we knew we had this game. It took all of us to dig deep, and it was definitely a team effort, so this meant a lot,” Leak said. 

The Red and Blue will look to put the losing streak behind them and win again next week when they hit the road to play Columbia and Cornell.