PHILADELPHIA - For the second time in the young Ivy League campaign, a fifth set has been Penn volleyball's undoing. After taking a 2-1 lead on Saturday evening at Harvard, the Quakers allowed Crimson to come back from a steep deficit in the fourth set and paid the price for it later on, falling 25-16, 15-25, 25-17, 22-25, 13-15.
As has become the norm for the Quakers in their last few matches, the team flew out of the gate in the first set with an easy win. Susan Stuecheli continued her dominance from Friday night by collecting four kills on four attacks while Lauren Martin had five kills on just six attacks. Powered by two of its captains, Penn only trailed once - at 1-0 - before breaking away from Harvard. Kristen Etterbeek also had four kills in the set for the Quakers.
Harvard would right the ship in the second set behind Caroline Walters, who had four of her five kills on the night in the second set. There was no defining run for the Crimson in the set, they simply pulled away steadily from Penn throughout, finally turning on the jets by scoring the last five points of the second set thanks in large part to four Quaker errors.
Penn answered the bell in the third set behind Etterbeek and some strong defense at the net. Etterbeek had six kills in the third and the Penn defense owned a 6-1 advantage on blocks in the frame. Though an 8-2 lead for the Red and Blue would eventually shrink to one point, Harvard never pulled even as the Quakers took a 2-1 edge in the match with a wire-to-wire victory.
After scoring the first four points of the fourth set and eventually taking a 13-6 lead, Penn appeared primed to take home a win on Saturday. But just as suddenly as they put that lead together, Harvard hit them back with a 6-0 run of its own to pull back within a point. Though the Quakers were able to keep their nose out in front for the majority of the set, two attack errors were part of a three-point Harvard spurt that tied it for the first time at 19-19. Knotted at 22-22, the Crimson cobbled together the last three points to win, 25-22, and force a fifth set.
The fifth set was hotly contested with neither team ever enjoying a lead of more than two points. Penn had its last lead of the evening after a Martin kill put them ahead, 9-8. From there, Harvard scored three in a row to take an 11-9 lead. In a weird bit of symmetry, the teams traded two-point runs the rest of the way. Unfortunately, that left the Quakers on the short end after a block and kill from Walters - re-appearing after quiet third and fourth sets - gave Harvard the set and the match, 15-13.
Emma White had a match-high 16 kills and added 16 digs for Penn in the loss. Six Penn hitters collected at least eight kills on the night, with Ronnie Bither dishing out 34 assists. Dani Shepherd had 25 digs, while up front, Amanda Pacheco totaled seven blocks (one solo, six assists)
Penn (6-8, 1-2 Ivy) returns to The Palestra next weekend for a pair of matches, hosting Cornell on Friday at 7 p.m. before finishing with Columbia on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Download: Penn-Harvard Box Score.pdf