CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- It was nothing short of a thrill in the Malkin Athletic Center for the University of Pennsylvania volleyball team, who took down Harvard in a five-set barnburner, 3-2 (17-25, 25-22, 19-25, 25-13, 18-16). Sophomore Alexis Genske was killing it on the court, literally, whose 20 kills were the most recorded by a Quaker this season. Genske also helped dig the Red and Blue out of a hole with 12 digs, behind senior captains Dani Shepherd (19) and Kristen Etterbeek (25).
There was a lot of hype leading up to the match and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Penn began with a rocky set-one after leading, 6-3. At every turn, the Crimson halted any momentum for the Red and Blue. Whenever the Quakers closed the gap, Harvard responded with steady runs to pull ahead and ultimately take the set, 25-17.
The Crimson kept rolling, maintaining the lead until late in the second set when Penn surged ahead, 23-22, off of a block by junior Kendall Turner and sophomore Alex Caldwell. Harvard proved responsible for its own undoing with two more attack errors, handing over the set, 25-22.
To make up for the second set loss, the Crimson held down the fort after the Red and Blue took the first point with a block by Turner and Genske. The Quakers were unable to capitalize on the momentum from the second-set win, as Harvard went up 2-1 with a 25-19 third set gain.
Surprising no one in attendance, the fourth set told yet another story, as Penn rallied with their backs against the wall. The Red and Blue took a commanding lead -- scoring 20 of their own 25 points with 12 kills, four blocks, and four service aces – and tied it at two a piece with a 25-13 rout.
Determined to defy the odds, the Quakers channeled the momentum from the fourth set into a victory, but it didn’t come easily with the Crimson maintaining a consistent edge. Time and again, it seemed that Harvard would walk away with a victory, standing just a single point from winning three different times. After a Penn timeout, a kill from Etterbeek tied the game for the final time, at 16. With an attack error by the Crimson, the Red and Blue finally broke through the Harvard line to forge ahead. Sophomore Ronnie Bither finished off the Crimson on a service ace, making the score of the final set 18-16.
Setting the pace for the offense was Caldwell (32 assists) and Bither (18), who also finished with 11 digs. The team produced 13 blocks to extend its win streak to six.
The Quakers will be back in action for their final matches of the season, when they host Brown and Yale next weekend.