Women's Volleyball: Princeton remains perfect in Ivy play
When the women’s volleyball team faced off against Columbia on Friday, its No. 1 standing in the Ivy League hung in the balance. The Tigers needed a victory to match Yale’s perfect, 5-0 conference record.
Princeton brought the loud and energetic home crowd to the edge of their seats right from the start of the first set, which would be the longest one the Tigers have played all season. In what was a streaky set for each team, both coaches used their timeouts to stop the momentum of the other team.
“That’s what [timeouts are] for,” head coach Sabrina King ’01 said after the game. “There are plenty of times throughout the game when we just need to take a moment and regroup.”
Coming out of a timeout down 12-15, the Tigers regained the momentum when senior outside hitter Lydia Rudnick had a huge kill and went on to take an 18-17 lead in the set. The two teams traded points back and forth until the Lions (7-7 overall, 2-1 Ivy League) eventually managed to win the set 34-32.
“Bouncing back from emotional losses is something that we have to deal with,” King said. “I’m proud of the way the team came out after the first [set], refocused and made it more about our side.”
Princeton jumped out to an early lead in the second set behind the intensity of sophomore middle blocker Tiana Woolridge. The Tigers never looked back as they grinded out a 32-34, 25-19, 25-22, 25-19 victory over Columbia.
Princeton brought the momentum from its four-game winning streak into Saturday’s match against Cornell; they rolled over the Big Red in the first set 25-14, cruising until set point at 24-19 in the second. But Cornell went on a 6-0 run and even managed a set point, which freshman right side Kendall Peterkin saved with a beautifully placed kill deep in the right corner of the court.
The Tigers pulled the set out 27-25. Princeton struggled in the third set, however, and would drop it to the Big Red 20-25.
“[The third set] was a wake-up call for us,” Rudnick said. “We need to finish teams off as soon as possible. It’s easy to loosen up a bit with a lead, but it’s important that we don’t get complacent.”
Princeton regained control and dominated the fourth set 25-14, after jumping out to a 12-2 lead early on.
The Tigers have found a nice balance between the power of outside hitters Rudnick and Peterkin and the finesse of middle blockers Woolridge and fellow sophomore Nicole Kincade. Princeton’s defensive play has set up the offense brilliantly over the past few games, with freshman libero Sarah Daschbach, who led the team with 26 digs this weekend, making a name for herself in the backcourt.
The team’s constant communication is also impressive. It was clear that in comparison with the members of Cornell’s squad, who were bumping into each other and letting balls drop untouched, Princeton’s unit dominated in part because of its organization and cohesion.
Princeton will be practicing hard this week as it looks forward to a showdown for sole possession of first place in the Ivy League on Friday at Yale (9-5).
“We are just hoping to come together as a team and beat [Yale] in its own gym,” Rudnick said.
Princeton (8-7, 5-0) will round out the weekend at Brown (5-10), the only other league opponent the Tigers have not yet faced this season, on Saturday.