Princeton, N.J. - The Quakers played their toughest match of the season, fighting off match point on multiple occasions to come away with the come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Princeton in Dillon Gym and earn their second straight Ivy League championship.
Penn found themselves down to match point three times in the fourth and once in the fifth set, but came back every time, as they have all season. The Quakers finished with a 29-27 fourth set victory and took the fifth 16-14 in dramatic fashion, on the way to their second straight title. Penn won the first set, 25-22, but dropped the second and third, 25-27 and 24-26 to set up the late game drama and comeback.
The Red and Blue improve to 12-2 in the Ancient Eight and earned a share of their second consecutive Ivy League title. The Quakers are now tied with Yale at 12-2 and have to play the Bulldogs on Sunday at 1 p.m. to earn the league's automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
In a match which had heroes all over the court, it was the defense which led Penn to the title, recording a season-high 15 blocks and 103 digs, including 18 digs in the final set. Senior Madison Wojciechowski had nine of the 18 and finished with a season-high 36 digs in the match. At the net, it was sophomore's Lauren Martin and Amanda Pacheco, and freshman Susan Stuecheli who provided the big block. Martin finished with a career-high seven block assists, while Pacheco added seven total blocks and Stuecheli totaled eight.
Penn had a balanced offense with four different players totaling double-digit kills. Senior Julia Swanson led the team with 18 and was followed by Martin, Pacheco and Stuecheli, who had 16, 15 and ten respectively.
The Quakers got off to a strong start in the opening set, going up 13-6. Princeton got back within two at 19-17, but a kill by Pacheco and an ace by junior Logan Johnson made it 21-17 as Penn finished with the 25-22 win.
The second set was a back-and-forth affair which featured eight lead changes and five ties. Even at 23, the Red and Blue went up on a Tiger attack error, however two straight by Princeton made it 25-24. The Quakers tied it up on another attack error, but the Tigers scored the final two points.
Princeton road its momentum into the third set, opening up a 17-13 lead and prompting a Penn timeout. Out of the break Megan Tyron was called for a bad set, but from there the Quakers scored nine straight to turn an 18-13 deficit into a 23-18 lead. However, the Tigers didn't give in, scoring six straight to go up 24-23. Pacheco tied it up at 24 on a kill, though two straight kills by Cathryn Quinn ended it 26-24.
Both teams kept at it in the fourth, as neither could get a lead larger than four. With Penn leading 22-20, the Tigers scored three straight. Trailing by one, the Red and Blue scored two straight to take back the lead. The teams continued trading points with set point in the balance until a kill by Pacheco tied it at 27 and two more from Swanson ended it, 29-27.
In the final set Princeton came out with the early 7-3 advantage. Penn called a timeout to regroup, and it paid off as the team scored three straight to make it 7-6. Unable to take a lead, the Quakers tied it at 9, 11, 12 and 13 before an attack error put them on the verge of defeat. A kill by Stuecheli tied it at 14 and Penn scored the final two to win in stunning fashion, 16-14.
In addition to Wojciechowski, four other players reached double-figure dig totals. Swanson was second with 15 while Tryon added 14, Johnson had 12 and freshman Dani Shepherd contributed ten. Tryon also dished out 52 assists and served two aces.
Now 16-10 overall, Penn looks to punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament when the team takes on Yale Sunday in New Haven at 1 p.m. During the regular season the two teams split their meetings with each winning on their home court. The Red and Blue won in four at the Palestra and the Bulldogs beat Penn in three in New Haven.