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This article is part of our 2015 Fall Preview

After compiling a solid 14-10 record during a 2014 campaign that included a third-place Ivy League finish (9-5), Princeton women’s volleyball (5-4 overall, 0-0 Ivy League) has already kicked off its 2015 season. Seeking their first Ivy title since 2007, the Tigers boast a strong core of returning veterans along with an impressive freshmen class that could give the team a boost to compete for the league championship this season.

Senior co-captains Kendall Peterkin and Sarah Daschbach will lead the Tigers this year, and the duo already hold prestigious positions in the program’s record books. Daschbach, a four-year starter at libero, has been a beacon of consistency for the Tigers over the span of her career, ranking fifth all-time in career digs at Princeton. A right side hitter, two-time All-Ivy League first team honoree, Peterkin now sits at 1,027 career kills, good for 11thin Princeton history, and continues to be one of the most dominant offensive forces in the Ivy League.

Complementing the senior captains will be a host of other veterans. Head Coach Sabrina King ’01 believes this year’s team is notable for its depth, adding, “We have a lot of different offensive weapons this year.” Among those weapons are the outside hitters, led by junior Cara Mattaliano, who hopes to return to her freshman year form that earned her All-Ivy League first team honors. The Orange and Black also return sophomore Kelly Matthews on the outside, who averaged 2.79 digs and 1.14 kills per set last season. Sophomore Pauli King also returns at the position. Junior Lauren Miller, a two-year starter for Princeton at setter, has compiled more than 1,700 assists in her career and will reprise her role working with the hitters this year.

While Princeton features a lot of veteran talent, there is a big void to fill at middle blocker this season. While junior Brittany Ptak — an All-Ivy League honorable mention last season — is back to protect the middle, the other half of last year’s fierce duo is missing. Nicole Kincade ’15, who was a first team All-Ivy selection and four-year starter, has graduated, and perhaps the biggest question of the preseason has been who would emerge to fill her shoes.“The experience and the volleyball IQ that she had is really difficult to replace,” remarked King.Senior Stephanie Marani adds experience at this position, but it is freshman Nnenna Ibe who has seized the job with some great preseason and early season play, earning praise from King and emerging as Kincade’s successor.

Ibe leads what is a very promising class of 2019. Fellow freshman Brooke Hershberger has already contributed as outside hitter, earning her coach’s confidence as an impact player off of the bench. Two more members of the young class have also earned substantial roles, as setter Claire Nussbaum and right side hitter Brittany Smith are both playing significant time already.

The Tigers have competed in three tournaments thus far this season, posting a 5-4 record against some strong competition. “We haven’t performed up to our potential,” King said, referring to her team’s performance early on before the Rutgers tournament, “but we have a lot of good pieces, and we have more depth this season than in the past.”King’s squad starts its Ivy campaign on Friday Sept. 25at Dillon Gym against Penn. Other key home matchups include Harvard onSaturday, Oct. 31, and Yale onFriday, Nov. 6.

Last year, the Tigers managed to win 9 out of 10 of their Ivy League games against the five teams that finished below them in the standings but dropped all four to rivals Harvard and Yale. From a physical standpoint, King believes that her team is equipped to match up well against the two teams, but the Tigers will have to fortify themselves mentally. Against the league’s top teams, the Tigers “kind of psych[ed] themselves out,” according to King, who added, “I think they need to focus on the process and play the way they play in practice,” in order to make the jump this year and beat the Crimson and the Bulldogs.

With a combination of exciting young talent and some record-chasing senior leadership, if women’s volleyball can heed its coach’s advice, the team seems poised to compete for the Ivy League Championship this season.

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