Women's Volleyball: Visitors regain 5th-set magic at Penn
Despite falling behind after the first and third sets, the women’s volleyball team rallied to win its first Ivy League contest, beating Penn 26-28, 25-22, 14-25, 25-23, 15-13 at The Palestra on Saturday evening. Princeton (4-7 overall, 1-0 Ivy League) righted a three-game losing streak behind a match-high 25 kills from senior outside hitter Lydia Rudnick.
Rudnick now leads the Ivy League with 4.05 kills per set; nobody else in the conference has more than three. The star hitter also led the Ancient Eight in that category in 2011, when she was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection.
“Lydia got some kills against Penn that were just amazing,” sophomore setter Ginny Willis, who finished the game with 59 assists and a team-high 29 digs, said in an email. “She is faster than almost anyone, and if I set her the ball fast enough, she is unstoppable.”
Facing a set point at 24-23 in the first period, a Rudnick kill kept the visitors alive; the reprieve was only temporary though, as Penn won on two consecutive hits by Lauren Martin. The second set, which featured more errors and longer runs by both teams, went to Princeton on a kill by sophomore outside hitter Sarah Hanna.
But while the first two sets were close, the third quickly got out of hand. Penn’s Dani Shepherd opened with eight straight service points, the final one an ace, before Princeton even got on the scoreboard. The hosts sent 14 of their 31 attacks to the floor and won by 11 points.
Penn opened the fourth frame with another strong rally, jumping out to an 8-3 lead, but the visitors improved their back-line defense and, with a 6-1 run, evened the score to 9-9. Then, with the score tied 22-22, the Tigers won three of four points — two of which were Rudnick kills — to force a deciding fifth. Four of the last five meetings between the two rivals have gone the full distance.
Princeton held a narrow lead for most of the fifth, but it was never larger than two points, and Penn pulled even at 12-12 and 13-13. But junior middle blocker Leah Jordan gave the first match point to the Tigers, who won 15-13 when a Quaker attack went astray.
Saturday’s outcome was less in line with the Tigers’ 2012 season — in which Princeton has been 0-4 in five-set contests — and more like that of last year, when they went 6-0 in matches that went the distance, including an Ivy League opener against Penn.
Although this year’s offense — like that of 2011 — often features Willis setting up Rudnick, the Tigers’ other options have changed. Freshman right side Kendall Peterkin had 14 kills on Saturday, while freshman libero Sarah Daschbach added 26 digs. Jordan and sophomore middle blocker Tiana Woolridge, who averaged fewer than three kills per match in limited playing time last season, each notched 10 against the Quakers.
“In the Ivy League, we get to know how the other teams play and they become predictable,” Willis said. “One of the great things about our rookies is that the other teams don’t know them all that well, so they have the opportunity to be more effective.”
Last season, the Tigers followed up a marathon victory over Penn with two more five-set victories against Dartmouth and Harvard. They’ll have an opportunity to repeat some of that magic this weekend, visiting the Crimson on Friday before traveling to New Hampshire on Saturday.