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Senior Margaret Planek kills the ball over the net while Dartmouth attempts to block it at the palestra on Oct. 2. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

On Saturday night in Ithaca, N.Y., Penn volleyball closed out its New York Ivy road trip with a tough loss against Cornell in straight sets. 

After turning around their losing streak with key victories against Dartmouth and Columbia, the Quakers (5-9, 2-3 Ivy) handed Cornell (5-8, 1-4 Ivy) their first Ivy League victory of the season. 

Cornell came out hot in the first set, starting off with a commanding 9-3 lead, prompting a Penn timeout to regroup. 

Penn called another timeout when Cornell extended their lead to 19-11. However, forced errors due to Cornell’s strong offense remained an issue for the Quakers through the remainder of the set. 

“We got reminded from the coaches throughout the match on what our game plan was coming in and knowing that we had to play strong defense to put up a strong block against them,” senior Kylie Kulinski said in regard to those early timeouts.

Cornell senior Casey Justus went seven for seven on total attacks in the first set, propelling the Big Red to take it 25-14. 

The Quakers hoped to come back strong in the second set, but Cornell quickly took a 7-3 lead over the Red and Blue. 

The Big Red doubled Penn’s points at 14-7, but soon after, the Quakers seemed to get back into their groove. With an impressive 4-0 run, Penn closed the deficit to 14-13. Up to this point, the Quakers had not scored more than two points in a row. 

The comeback was short-lived, as Cornell won the next six of seven points, and the Quakers were back trailing by six points. 

After a needed timeout, the Quakers came out with confidence, getting kills from junior Autumn Leak, freshman Ella Green, and senior Daniela Fornaciari to get within two of Cornell at 20-18. 

“I think we found ways to serve tougher from the end lines to get them out of system; our blockers did a little bit of a better job lining up and creating opportunities for our defenders,” head coach Meredith Schamun said.

After a back-and-forth ending with Penn creeping within three points of Cornell multiple times at the end of the second set, Cornell was able to reach the 25-point mark faster. 

The Quakers dropped the second set to Cornell 25-22.

The Red and Blue have not come back from a 2-0 set deficit this season, but were hoping to change that tonight. Throughout the night, the Quakers greatly improved from their slow first set. 

“As the game went on, we did a bit of a better job getting [Cornell] out of system more, making it a bit harder for them to run their offense,” Kulinski said. 

Penn and Cornell exchanged points quite a bit in the third set, which contained three lead changes and 11 ties. Cornell started to pull away with a 12-8 lead, but Penn responded with a 4-0 run that put the Quakers deadlocked. After being tied at 17, the Big Red took the next eight of 10 points to close out the set and the match. 

Schamun attributes Penn’s loss to Cornell’s strong offense throughout the game and looks ahead to improving their own defense. 

“I think, honestly, we never quite caught up to Cornell’s offense for the entirety of the match. … We have to be a bit better on our side of the net.” 

Senior captain Margaret Planek had an impressive 10 kills and a .400 hitting percentage. Junior Madeline McGregor hit .333 and was six-for-six in kills. Assists from five different players, led by Kulinski with 18, helped the Quakers get close to the Big Red in the second and third sets.

The Red and Blue return to the Palestra for back-to-back Ivy matchups against Brown on Friday and Yale on Saturday, hoping to bounce back.