PHILADELPHIA - Racing to an 11-2 lead over Columbia to open the first set, the Penn volleyball team proved early and often that they had their A game going on Saturday night at The Palestra. When it was all said and done, the Quakers were rewarded for their efforts with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-22) win over the Lions in an important Ivy League contest.
Though she didn't end the match with any aces, it was the serve of Kristen Etterbeek that caught Columbia off-guard in the first set. The Lions couldn't string together passes consistently in the early going and Penn established its early lead in the set thanks to her. Columbia would get no closer than five points as the set progressed as she and Emma White combined for 11 kills in the first. Providing further difficulty for the Columbia attack was national digs leader Dani Shepherd. The junior had an astounding 13 of her 26 digs in the first set to set the tone, and Penn easily dispatched of the Lions by a score of 25-18 to take the 1-0 lead.
Columbia came out strong in the second set and found itself ahead by three points on multiple occasions. Still, the Quakers never panicked and took their first lead of the set at 13-12 after consecutive attack errors from the Lions, one of which came on an Amanda Pacheco solo block. Though the set went through a number of ties from that point on, the lead never again changed hands. With the score at 23-21, clutch kills from Etterbeek and Pacheco gave Penn the 25-21 win and a 2-0 edge in the match.
The third set became a war of attrition as both squads came out of the locker room executing exceptionally on defense. Having overcome seven blocks from the Lions in the set and the score knotted at 19-19, Penn put together three straight points to take a 22-19 lead and force a timeout from the Columbia bench. From there, kills from White and Lauren Martin put the Quakers on the precipice of victory with the score at 24-22. After a lengthy rally, an attack from the Lions that sailed long clinched the set and the win for the Red and Blue, 25-22.
Etterbeek hit .419 for the match with 15 kills to lead the Penn offense. Ronnie Bither (38 assists, 11 digs) and White (12 kills, 14 digs) each provided double-doubles for the Quakers as well.
Penn (8-8, 3-2 Ivy) gets back into action next weekend with a pair of road matches at Brown (Friday at 7 p.m.) and Yale (Saturday at 5 p.m.).
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