PHILADELPHIA - Penn volleyball (9-9, 4-3 Ivy) reached the halfway point of the Ivy League season last weekend and now begins its second time through the Ancient Eight gauntlet, starting with a 7 p.m. match on Friday night at Princeton's Dillon Gymnasium.
Last Time Out
Penn got off to the start it wanted last weekend with a 3-1 win on the road over Brown. Alex Caldwell notched her fourth triple-double of the season with a match-high 13 kills, 20 assists and 12 digs. Kristen Etterbeek (10 kills and 19 digs) and Emma White (10 kills and 17 digs) each had double-doubles in support of Caldwell's effort. Dani Shepherd led the defense with 28 digs as the Quakers won their third in a row. Saturday was a different story. Against Yale, Penn played to a virtual draw with the Ivy League leaders in the first set as 17 ties put the score at 24-24. But the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead by scoring the final two points of the set for a 1-0 lead. The Quakers came out on fire in the second set and led by a score of 18-12 before Yale suddenly scored 12 unanswered to turn that six point deficit into a six point advantage, taking a 2-0 lead in the match. Again in the third set the teams were neck and neck, until nine straight from the Bulldogs turned a 15-15 tie into a 24-15 lead en route to the 3-0 win, keeping Yale undefeated in Ivy League play.
A Look Back
The Red and Blue owe Princeton some payback for a 3-2 (28-26, 22-25, 25-14, 23-25, 13-15) loss in the Ivy League season opener back on Sept. 22. In that match, Penn owned leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before the Tigers rebounded to eke out two-point wins in both the fourth and fifth sets. White and Etterbeek tied for team-highs in kills with 13 apiece, each supplying double-doubles thanks to 23 digs from White and another 17 from Etterbeek. Ronnie Bither also had a double-double of 35 assists and 10 digs, while Caldwell had what was then her second straight triple-double (10 kills, 16 assists, 12 digs) on her way to her first Ivy League Rookie of the Week award. Shepherd was up to her usual tricks on defense with 43 digs, getting involved on the offensive end as well with six assists and five service aces.
Lydia Rudnick was Penn's biggest problem the first time around. The Ivy League's kills leader had 25 against the Quakers on 75 attacks with five errors for a hitting percentage of .267. Kendall Peterkin added 14 kills but was much more error-prone, giving the Red and Blue eight freebies. For the entire match, Penn outhit Princeton .205 to .158, while also enjoying leads in both blocks (10-7) and digs (118-112). The Quakers did struggle on serve at times, recording nine errors.
Scouting the Tigers
As mentioned before, Rudnick leads the Ivy League in kills with 4.37 per set coming into the weekend, good for 17th nationally. Peterkin comes in right behind her with 3.20 kills per set, ranking second in the league. With so much attention focused on those two, middle blocker Leah Jordan is often left unchecked, freeing her up to hit .390 on the season, second in the Ivy League and 26th in all of Division I. Ginny Willis is the catalyst for the Princeton offense, leading the Ivies with 10.63 assists per set. Nicole Kincade was inactive the first time these two teams met but is a force at the net, averaging 1.16 blocks per set. Sarah Daschbach leads the back row with 4.37 digs per set.
Hard to Kill
Nothing is easy when teams go up against the Quaker defense. Penn leads the Ivy League in opponents' hitting percentage, giving up an average of just .168. The Red and Blue have been even better in league matches, where the rest of the Ancient Eight have hit only .150 against them. Shepherd continues to lead the nation in digs per set. Now at 6.60, she holds a .41 lead over Brittany Groth of Green Bay (6.19) in the category. As a team, Penn is the only squad in the country averaging over 20 digs per set. The Quakers continue to hold a steady advantage with a 21.52 to 19.87 edge over Yale. There's another precipitous drop after the Bulldogs, with Pacific ranking third in the nation at 18.53 per set.
Can't Keep Her Off the Court
Though just a freshman, Bither has proven herself invaluable to Penn's efforts this season. The setter from San Jose, Calif. is the only Quaker to play in every set for Head Coach Kerry Carr's crew this season. In 69 sets, Bither has put up numbers of 8.04 assists per set along with 3.10 digs. Active at the net as well, she has helped Penn both offensively and defensively with 32 kills and 18 block assists.
Princeton will provide live stats and video for Friday night's match. Subscribers to Penn Sports Network will be able to access the video content for no additional cost. If you are not a subscriber to PSN, Princeton offers a day-pass for $9.95 (Note: Subscription may auto-renew, please follow the FAQ's to ensure correct billing).