New Haven, Conn. - The Quakers let it go to a fifth set against Yale on Sunday, but left no doubt in the final set, scoring five straight to go ahead for good, finishing with the 3-2 victory at the John. J. Lee Amphitheater and earning the team's second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Penn won the first two sets by matching 25-18 margins but dropped the third and the fourth, 25-23 and 25-17. In the final set down 5-4, the Red and Blue got five straight kills on the way to the 15-8 fifth set victory.
On the defense, the senior duo of Madison Wojciechowski and Julia Swanson were everywhere, totally 24 and 21 digs respectively. Freshman Dani Shepherd also joined them in double figures with 14 digs. Freshman Susan Stuecheli loomed large up front with seven total blocks, including a career-high three solo blocks.
Yale came out of the gates on fire, taking an early 11-2 lead and forcing Penn head coach Kerry Carr to use her two timeouts early. Her squad regrouped, as the Quakers battled back with five consecutive points, forcing a Bulldog timeout. Penn tied the set at 13-13 and took its first lead, 16-15 on an attach error by Yale's Kendall Polan. Completing the comeback, Penn finished off the Bulldogs with a 25-18 victory.
Continuing to put the pressure on the home team in the second set, Penn built a 15-6 lead on back-to-back kills by Martin Yale scored four straight points, cutting the Quaker lead to 15-10, and later came within two at 16-14, but Penn pushed the spread back to six, 21-16. A pair of kills by Swanson and an attack error by Yale's Bridget Hearst, closed out the set, 25-18, giving the Quakers a 2-0 advantage.
Two straight kills by Pacheco put the Quakers up 11-7 early in the third set, forcing a Yale timeout. The Bulldogs responded out of the huddle with a powerful kill by Hearst to snap Penn's four-point rally. Four straight points by the Bulldogs knotted the score at 12. After a service error by Yale's Katie Cordell tied the set again, 23-23, back-to-back kills by Polan kept the Bulldogs alive with a third-set win, 25-23.
Taking the momentum swing from the third set into the fourth, the Bulldogs broke open a back-and-forth set to take a 21-14 lead down the stretch. After trading points to make it 22-15, a pair of Quaker attack errors made it 24-15. Penn held off set point twice before Swanson's serve went short into the net to force the fifth and deciding set.
Tied 3-3 in the fifth set, back-to-back kills by Pacheco put Penn up 5-3 early and led to a Yale timeout. Out of the break, Penn tallied its third straight point on a Kristen Etterbeek kill and another kill by Pacheco put the Quakers up 8-4.
Yale finally broke the four-point Penn streak with a kill by Haley Wessels, but Swanson and Etterbeck blocked her on the next point. Pacheco put down her fourth kill of the set to make it 11-6 Quakers and three points later a block by Stuecheli made it 13-7. An attack error by Martin gave the Bulldogs a moment of hope, but Martin fired back with her 22nd kill of the match and a block by Stuecheli and Etterbeck ended the match.
Etterbeek finished with a career-high tying four blocks and also added nine kills and four digs. Stuecheli had nine kills to go with her seven blocks and junior Logan Johnson finished with eight digs on the back line.
Yale was led by Hearst's 18 kills while Polan missed her second triple-double of the year by one kill, tallying nine kills, 30 assists and 17 digs. Kelly Ozurovich recorded a match-high 32 digs for the Bulldogs.
Penn improves to 17-10 overall with the victory, its 13th win in its last 14 matches. The Quakers now await their NCAA Tournament fate with the NCAA selection show set for Sunday, Nov. 28 at 3 p.m. on ESPNNews.