It's been an eventful season for Penn volleyball, and their 4-20 record doesn’t tell the full story. Despite the way it ended, the team was able to look fondly back on the last few months.
On Saturday, Penn gave a valiant effort against Dartmouth in the Palestra, but ultimately fell 3-1. Coming off their 3-0 loss to Harvard the night before, and channeling the energy present at their strongest performances, the Red and Blue were ready to give this final game all they had. With all five of the team's seniors appearing in the starting lineup, the Quakers came out strong in the first set, and the score went back and forth as the two teams battled for the edge. Dartmouth eventually took the set 25-21, but this only lit a fire in the Quakers as they attempted to come back.
In the second set, Penn pulled ahead thanks to the stellar play of senior outside hitter Madison Risch, who led the team with 12 kills and was a force at the net, slamming down electric spikes that Dartmouth often had no hope of returning. After a couple of stressful set points, a Dartmouth serve error allowed Penn to successfully flip the previous score and win the second set 25-21.
When Penn first faced off against the Big Green in October, they were shut out 0-3. Reflecting on that game, coach Meredith Schamun said that “last time at Dartmouth, [Penn] beat [them]selves.” She added that the Quakers “had so many unforced errors — balls hit out or hit in the net where Dartmouth didn't have to do anything.”
According to Schamun, a large part of Penn's strategy consisted of trying to “hit high and cover,” which they stuck to all game, utilizing well-timed kill shots when it made sense to go on the offense. As Dartmouth started to ramp up the intensity, Penn sophomore libero Abigail Reid kept the team alive with 18 digs. The last two sets unfolded in tight scores and nail-biting rallies, and the Palestra came alive after the first timeout of the fourth set, when the Quakers went from an 8-2 deficit to five straight points and brought the match within one.
However, as the opposition became more and more aggressive, their kills hitting home more often, Penn’s second set victory and defensive strategy were not enough to stay alive in every point, and the Big Green took the final sets 25-15 and 25-17 to win the match.
When asked what changed since the last Dartmouth game, senior outside hitter Tatum DeMann said that the team became scrappier.
“We shied away from a challenge the last time we played Dartmouth,” she said. “Then, this time we played, we did the opposite. We got excited by it. So, I think we definitely saw an improvement.”
The end of the season was bittersweet for everyone, especially the seniors, who reminisced that this part of their lives had come to a close. Both Schamun and DeMann admitted that they would have liked to end the season on a win, but for the seniors, being together and feeling proud of what they accomplished this season was still a very positive final note.