PHILADELPHIA – History repeated itself Tuesday night at The Palestra, as the University of Pennsylvania volleyball team defeated the Delaware Blue Hens in a nailbiter, 3-2 (21-25, 21-25, 25-19, 26-24, 16-14). The Quakers finished with a total of 57 kills, 13 service aces, and 76 digs. The win tonight improves the Red and Blue to a 1-3 overall record.
A service error by Penn started the Blue Hens with a three-point lead in the first set, and the Quakers struggled to fully gain control after that. Penn started to come to life when they rallied for a 10-9 lead, but it was short-lived as the Blue Hens jumped out to a six-point advantage. The margin was too great to come back from and the Red and Blue fell 21-25.
The second set did not start much better for Penn, as Delaware pulled away 5-0 and went on to a 25-21 finish. It looked like the Blue Hens were going to leave the Palestra with a sweep.
However, the third set did not end in a Delaware victory. In fact, the Quakers gave the Blue Hens a taste of their own medicine, pulling away with a seven-point lead, 18-11. With one last chance to stay in the game, Delaware middle hitter Chandler Bryant stepped behind the line. The serve went up and ended with a kill by junior Kendall Turner. Penn won set three, 25-19.
That win seemed to light a fire under the Quakers, as they battled in an intense fourth set. Penn found itself in a cushy six-point lead three different times, but lost hold of it. After a kill by sophomore Jasmine DeSilva made the score 19-15, the Quakers started to lose their edge and a back-and-forth battle ensued when the score was in Penn’s favor, 20-19. Eleven serves later, the 12th and final and serve was the magic Penn needed when Blue Hen Katie Hillman made an attack error and the Quakers claimed the fourth set, 26-24.
The Palestra erupted and the final showdown began. Was history about to repeat itself? Would the Quakers be the “comeback kids” once again?
Sophomore Ronnie Bither was back to serve first, and the point ended with a kill by senior Kristen Etterbeek. Point two was one of four service aces Bither tallied on the night. The Quakers continued their streak with an attack error by Hillman, 3-0. Now, it was Delaware’s turn to gain a few points and pulled ahead 13-8. A timeout by Penn forced a break in the Blue Hens’ momentum. Delaware was only two points away from sealing the deal, but the Quakers brought too much for the Blue Hens to handle. Sophomore Alex Caldwell and freshman Arielle Winfield saw an end to the grueling competition with a block to end the match and win, 3-2.
Head Coach Kerry Carr knew her team was not following the game plan in the first two sets. The plan was to play aggressive, which may mean many errors but also big points.
“We were playing safe,” said Carr. “And we don’t play well when we play safe.” One of the last pieces of advice Carr told her players was that they needed to play aggressive and not focus on the scoreboard. That is exactly what the Red and Blue did.
Four players finished with double digits in kills -- Etterbeek (11 kills), Caldwell (10), and sophomores Michellie McDonald-O’Brien (10) and DeSilva (10). Senior Dani Shepherd topped the team with 29 digs, while Bither followed with 14.
The Quakers will be back in action on the Palestra court this Saturday and Sunday when they host Weber State, La Salle, Temple, and American in the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Penn Invitational.