On Friday, Sept. 22, women’s volleyball (5–5 overall, 2–0 Ivy League) traveled to open their Ivy League schedule with a win against Penn (2–10, 0–2). The next day, Princeton hosted Penn and once again emerged victorious. Continuing their winning streak of Ivy League openers, the Tigers have now won every Ivy opening game since 2015.
Princeton set the tone early in their first match against Penn, scoring six straight points to start the game. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Penn fired right back and went on a six-point scoring streak of their own. The first set went back-and-forth until the Quakers broke it open with a four-point streak to win the first set of the match 25–22.
The Tigers quickly picked themselves up after a tough first set. Despite falling behind 3–0 early, Princeton responded with force. A kill by sophomore middle blocker Lucia Scalamandre sparked what would become a 9–0 run for the Tigers. After this, it was smooth sailing for Princeton for the rest of the set. The set ended on an attack error by Penn, leaving the Tigers with a 25–14 second set victory.
Coming off their momentum from the second set, Princeton was in the driver’s seat the entire third set. Even with a six-point Quaker run late in the set, Princeton never fell below Penn, resulting in a 25–21 Princeton win.
Princeton then closed the game with a competitive fourth set by both teams. The Tigers and Quakers were back-and-forth throughout the set, but Princeton broke the game open with a 5–0 streak just moments after the game was tied at 17. With this run, Princeton continued their win streak against Penn and won the game with the final set ending 25–18.
The Tigers were propelled by senior opposite hitter Kathleen Bishop’s then career-high 14 kills. The very next day, Bishop set a new career-high with 17 kills against Penn.
“Our mentality going into the game was to play together as a team with high energy and focus,” Bishop told The Daily Princetonian. “Every Ivy game is important, so it feels great to start the conference season with a win.”
The future of the Tigers is also looking bright with a first-year and a sophomore playing key roles in this week’s matchup. Scalamandre had 11 kills and seven blocks, and first-year setter Sydney Draper added on a game-high 42 assists and 13 digs of her own.
“We hope to [continue to] use this momentum going into the home game [this Saturday] and away games next weekend,” said Bishop, referring to their second game against Penn the next day.
On Saturday afternoon, women’s volleyball did just that, securing a strong start to the Ivy League Conference with a second consecutive win against Penn. The Tigers increased their win streak against the Quakers to 15–0 with a nail-biting win in the fifth set, and an overall match win of 3–2 (25–9, 25–20, 22–25, 22–25, 15–11). This win places Princeton at the top of Ivy Conference standings to kick off the season.
The Tigers gained momentum quickly in the first set, reaching a 7–1 lead. Princeton’s starters rapidly displayed that they were prepared to win that day, with consistent kills and aces throughout the opening set. Princeton held a massive lead against Penn for the remainder of the set, swiftly sweeping them 25–9 to start off the match.
Princeton came out on top 4–3 in the first few points of the second set. However, after Penn gained a 6–4 lead, the Tigers were left to play catch-up for the majority of the set.
Junior blocker and opposite hitter Mariah Haislip landed a kill to improve the score to 5–6, but Penn ruthlessly responded with two consecutive kills of their own. This back-and-forth persisted for the middle portion of the set. The momentum began to change with a tremendous kill from first-year outside hitter Erin McNair following an incredible dig by senior outside hitter Maya Satchell at 15–18.
The Quakers called their first timeout of the set at 20–20, a sign that the Tigers were finally back in the game. Following this break, the Tigers fed off their momentum to close the set at 25–20 with consecutive kills from McNair, and an absolutely monstrous block.
It became clear early on in the third set that Penn had felt the weight of their second set loss and were prepared to fight back. While the Quakers managed to seize the third and fourth set, the Tigers did not make it an easy feat.
In the third set, Princeton and Penn fought back and forth, tying multiple points. The set began to turn when two consecutive kills by Penn were followed by a Tiger service error and a hitting error. Princeton called a timeout down at 24–22, but it was too late to save the set, and the Quakers claimed a 25–22 win.
The fourth set followed in similar fashion, and the Tigers did not look their strongest. After starting down 2–0, Princeton managed to take it back, 8–4, with consecutive kills from Bishop. Penn called an effective timeout at 9–5 and recovered the lead 13–11. Once again, the Tigers trailed until they rallied to a score of 21–18. Unfortunately, at 21–19, with an upsetting call from the referee, Princeton started to fall apart, and Penn snatched another set from the Tigers 25–22.
“The biggest thing I would say is that this team is resilient and is going to have to be resilient,” women’s volleyball assistant coach Tim Favreau said in an interview with the 'Prince' after the game.
The Tigers had a shaky start to the fifth set, having just lost two consecutive sets and their lead in the game. The tide turned for the Tigers as they began to personify the resilience of which that Favreau spoke. First-year libero Sydney Bold boosted the score with an ace, and soon, Princeton was winning 7–3.
Penn looked increasingly shaky as the Tigers battled on with confidence. Preceding the switching of sides, Princeton looked as strong as ever as they closed an epic rally with a fantastic kill. At 14–11, Haislip essentially sealed the deal with a colossal kill. The Quakers crumbled, and the Tigers persevered as victors of this battle, 15–11.
Some of the top performers in Princeton’s past few games have been first-years. McNair, Bold, and Draper have been shining brightly under pressure. Draper clinched her second consecutive double-double — sixth total — with 61 assists and 10 digs. Bold achieved 21 digs, and McNair reached 10 kills.
Favreau recognizes the youth of his players, but does not believe it is a weakness.
“We’re young and have got a lot of players out on the floor that don’t have a ton of years of collegiate starting experience,” said Favreau. “So this is going to be a full team effort throughout the season. They’re really going to have to lean on each other and support each other throughout this journey. I thought we did a great job with that tonight, as you saw in that fifth set.”
Women’s volleyball will return to the court Friday, Sept. 29 to play Brown in Providence, R.I. at 7 p.m. for another Ivy matchup.
Allison Ha is a contributing writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.
Josefina Gurevich is a contributor to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.