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Princeton women’s volleyball fell to Penn State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Photo Credit: Jack Graham / The Daily Princetonian

While most students are preparing for the end of the semester, Princeton’s women’s volleyball team wasn’t ready to see the end of their season.

After defeating Yale in the Ivy League playoff matchup, the Tigers geared up to face the No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Dec. 6, where they took a tough loss in three sets (21–25, 20–25, 19–25).

The first set was nothing short of a whirlwind of play for both teams. Princeton came out strong, keeping a close score throughout the entirety of the set.

Head coach Sabrina King had two challenges in the first set, both of which the Tigers won. With the score being tied at 13–13, the second challenge called for a change of the score and put Princeton up 14–12.

Despite this advantage, two quick Penn State points tied the score again at 14-all. Throughout the first half of the set, the Nittany Lions hadn’t led by more than one point, but two more quick kills put them up 16–14. The Tigers didn’t give up, though, heading into a tied score after three straight Tigers points and a kill from senior right-side-hitter Maggie O’Connell.

Penn rallied off three points before a Princeton timeout allowed the Tigers to put one more point on the board. Nevertheless, two Princeton hitting errors gave Penn State the four-point victory.

Penn State took an early lead in the second set before the Tigers rallied back some points. The Nittany Lions kept the lead, eventually extending it a 6–10 lead, until a kill from first-year middle-blocker Olivia Schewe put the Tigers down by only three. It didn’t last long before a service error put them down four once again.

Princeton used their first timeout of the second set after Penn State was up by five points. Penn State came out hot in the first half of the set and did not have any plans of letting up, as their front row hitters became fired up.

The Tigers didn’t see a lead during the entire second set, but they did win their third challenge of the match to make it a four-point second set. An O’Connell kill gave the Tigers three straight points to put the score at 17–20 before Penn State called a timeout. Princeton came within two points of Penn State, but after a great defensive effort, the Nittany Lions were able to capitalize on the Tigers being out of rotation, and a Penn State kill set them up for set-point. The second set ended with a Penn State victory after a service ace.

The third set started out with Princeton’s first lead since the first set, taking a quick 4–0 lead before a tip down the middle gave the Nittany Lions their first point of the set. The Tigers held on to the lead, though, with Penn State coming within one point multiple times before they evened the set up at 13-all.

Princeton wasn’t ready to give up their lead. They managed to rally off two points to secure a 15–13 lead before a timeout was called. Princeton got one more point before Penn State tied the score at 16-all and then took a one-point lead; Princeton fought back with a Penn State blocking error to tie it at 17-all.

The Nittany Lions came to life late in the set, and built up a two-point lead before Princeton called a timeout. Coming out of the break, Penn State’s fourth ace of the night put them up 20–17, and a kill gave them a four point lead.

Senior outside and right-side hitter Devon Peterkin kept the Tigers alive with a kill of the block, but Penn State had a kill right down the line to set them up with only three more points for the match victory. 

This season brought monumental moments for the Tigers, with ending as Co-Ivy League Champions with Yale and winning the playoff match against Yale to advance to the NCAA tournament.

The Princeton volleyball program also brought in two major awards this season: Head Coach Sabrina King was honored as Ivy League Coach of the Year, for the third time, and sophomore libero Cameron Dames was recognized as Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year.

Six members of the program were also named to All-Ivy Teams. Seniors Maggie O’Connell and Jessie Harris, along with junior Clare Lenihan, were named to the All-Ivy League first team. Along with seniors Devon Peterkin and Natasha Skov, Dames garnered second-team honors.

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