Volleyball Digs Deep for First Ivy Win of Season

PHILADELPHIA – It was as if the University of Pennsylvania volleyball team had a seventh player on the court, thanks to the fans who got to their feet as junior Ronnie Bither went behind the line for the match-winning point against Cornell Saturday night in The Palestra. The Big Red’s fight to stay alive led to a long volley, but an attack error gave the Quakers the point and match, 3-1 (25-19, 25-18, 22-25, 25-23). Junior Alex Caldwell logged a triple-double for Penn, tallying 12 kills, 22 assists, and 16 digs on the night. Contributing six kills in set one alone helped the Red and Blue put up a season-high .441 attack percentage was junior captain Alexis Genske, who recorded a double-double with 15 kills and 14 digs. Senior Kendall Turner not only finished with 10 kills in the match but also protected the net with six blocks. Defensively, Penn saw five players reach double-digit status in digs.

The Quakers got things going early, rattling off five straight points to start the match. Penn kept a steady lead throughout the set, although a Cornell run forced a timeout by the Red and Blue at 14-10. Coming out of the break, the Quakers were firing on all cylinders, expanding their margin to as much as 20-14. The Big Red’s timeout proved ineffective as the teams traded points until the Penn walked away with a 25-19 first set win. A 1.000 hitting percentage by Turner on three kills, added to Genske’s six, built the foundation for a season-high .441 hitting percentage on a remarkable 17 kills in the set for the Red and Blue.

In the second set, neither team could find momentum. Unlike the early rally the Quakers started with in set one, both teams traded points with 14 tie scores and nine lead changes. Penn finally broke the 15-15 tie, going up 17-15 after an attack error by Cornell. A big kill by freshman Kendall Covington helped the Red and Blue keep that lead, before another error by Cornell gave the Quakers their largest lead of the set to that point, 21-16. Covington was not content with a five-point lead and made her displeasure known with a second power shot to put Penn up 23-17. Turner joined in on the action too, before freshman Aimee Stephenson finished the set off with a kill, 25-18.

Cornell opened up set three with their largest lead up to that point, 4-2, and maintained it for much of the early part of the set. The Red and Blue forced a tie at seven apiece and broke ahead for the first time in the set at 9-8, after an attack error by the Big Red. Caldwell tied the score at 11 with a kill that rolled along the net before finally falling to the floor on the Cornell side. However, it wasn’t enough to give Penn the advantage. Cornell pushed the Quakers to the brink, who couldn’t pull the set victory out and fell 25-22.

Much like the first set, the fourth saw the Red and Blue jump ahead early. An 8-2 lead gave the Quakers an early spark. Although the Big Red narrowed the gap, Penn’s early lead proved to be the difference as the home team took the win, 25-23.

The Red and Blue finished their nine-match home stand next weekend with Yale and Brown. Both contests will also be this season’s Dig Pink! matches.

Download: Penn vs. Cornell Boxscore.pdf