PHILADELPHIA - Given one last chance to try some new things before Ivy League season takes over the rest of the way, Kerry Carr tried some new things with the Penn volleyball team on Sunday in a non-conference matchup with the Towson Tigers. Facing a team that entered the day 13-3 overall, it very nearly worked.
Without the advantages of an advance scouting report or the chance to study film on some of the new Quakers on the floor, Towson struggled in the first set and allowed Penn to hit a season-high .464 en route to a 1-0 lead. But from there, the Tigers showed the firepower that allowed them to accrue that lofty record. Behind a .750 hitting percentage in the decisive fifth set, Towson held on for a 3-2 (25-21, 23-25, 15-25, 25-20, 6-15) win over the Quakers.
Playing about as error-free as you could ask for, Penn tallied 14 kills in the first set against just one miscue on the attack. Tied at 3-3, the first of five first-set kills from Jasmine DeSilva would give the Quakers a lead they wouldn't lose the rest of the way. The Tigers would trail by as many as seven points in the set before cutting the lead down to one in the late stages. With the score 22-21 in favor of the Red and Blue, DeSilva and Tori Manix combined for a block, and two DeSilva kills closed it out for Penn in the 25-21 win.
The Quakers' hitting percentage went from one extreme to the other in the second set. After that season high of .464 to take the 1-0 lead on the visitors from the CAA, Penn followed up by hitting -.043 in the second set. Despite that, the Red and Blue led for much of the set, including a three-point edge at 21-18 before the litany of errors began to mount. After a Towson side-out, four consecutive attack errors put the Tigers out in front by two and they held on in the closing moments to tie the match at a set apiece.
All indications from the first two sets said the match would remain similarly close in the third set. Towson flipped that idea on its head with an 8-0 in the middle of the set to take a 15-8 lead. Even after a heads-up kill from Manix put the serve back in the hands of the Quakers, Penn couldn't cut the lead to less than five for the remainder of the set and Towson cruised to a 2-1 lead after a 25-15 win.
Rather than pack it in, Penn fought back to tie the match with a 25-20 win in the fourth set. DeSilva had four kills in the fourth while Alexis Genske and Michellie McDonald-O'Brien each added three. Given the rare opportunity to play back row and serve, McDonald-O'Brien helped Penn to score five straight for a 12-6 lead before Towson used a timeout. The lead swelled to eight at 16-8, but just as swiftly, the Tigers tied it at 16-16 following a run that included three aces. Aided by four Towson errors in the span of six points in the aftermath of that run, the Quakers re-established a comfortable margin and won the fourth set on a kill from Elizabeth Horner.
Though Katy Buck was the leading attacker for Towson entering the match and did end up with 12 kills on Sunday, the damage was largely done by Marta Machos (17 kills, .652 hitting pct.) and I'Ishah Keliikoa (13 kills, .750 hitting pct.). That was never more evident than in the fifth set, when the two combined to go 5-for-5 on attacks. Helped by that pair, Towson hit .750 in the set and never truly allowed Penn an opening, scoring six straight after falling behind, 1-0. The Red and Blue could get no closer than three points the rest of the way.
Genske had a team-high 12 kills for Penn while DeSilva was the other Quaker in double-figures with 11. Ronnie Bither led Penn with 22 assists and Alex Caldwell added 21. Dani Shepherd again had a team high in digs, this time with 14.
The Quakers will need to shake off this loss as they get into the heart of their schedule beginning next weekend with a colorful roadtrip to Dartmouth and Harvard. Penn meets the Big Green on Friday night at 7 p.m. and closes the weekend against the Crimson on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Download: Penn-Towson Box.pdf