It was a tough opener to Ivy League play for the Princeton women’s volleyball team, as they fell to their nearby rivals, the Penn Quakers, in a Dillon Gymnasium showdown Friday night.
The Tigers (5-5 overall, 0-1 Ivy League) came into this match having every reason to be confident — they were coming off of a 3-0 performance in the Rutgers Tournament from the previous weekend. Moreover, they had dominated the Quakers (7-6 overall, 1-0 Ivy League) in their meetings last year, winning the matches 3-0 and 3-1.
Apparently ready to start afresh against the Tigers, Penn came out ready to go in the matchup. They started out on a 4-0 run and pushed the lead out to as far as 7. While a 6-1 Tigers run cut the lead down to 2, it would be as close as they got as Penn went on to the 25-21 victory. Princeton, however, responded right back, tying up the match with a 25-19 victory of their own.
The opening of the third set was a back-and-forth affair, until Penn managed to break out to a 15-7 lead, and seemed on their way to a second victory as the score became 20-13. An 8-1 run brought Princeton level, sparked primarily by senior right side hitter Kendall Peterkin and junior middle blocker Brittany Ptak. They were unable to make further progress — Penn outscored Princeton 4-1 in the final stages to put themselves up 2-1 in the match.
The final set was a heartbreaker for Princeton fans. The Tigers led nearly the entirety of the set, and looked to be within striking distance of forcing the crucial fifth set as they went up 22-16. The Quakers, however, would push the score to 23-21 soon after. While a kill from Ptak put the Tigers within a hair of victory at 24-21, the Quakers would score the final 5 points of the match, giving them their first win in Dillon Gymnasium since 2012. On the day, Peterkin led the offensive effort with 17 kills — senior libero Sarah Daschbach the defensive effort with 22 digs.
Despite the loss, the Tigers still have 13 more chances to battle their Ivy League opponents in order to propel themselves to an NCAA bid.
“Although we are intense during pre-season games, we have an added fire when playing Ivy League teams,” junior outside hitter Cara Mattaliano said. “The league is really strong, and the loss to Penn was tough, but motivating. We’re just that much more inclined to work as hard as we can in practice to improve and ultimately we strive to win the league.”