PHILADELPHIA - Playing its first set of the season, the Penn volleyball team seemed sharp and focused after a 25-20 first set victory over visiting Temple. But the early momentum wasn't enough to carry the Quakers to victory as the Owls found a way to win in each of the three successive sets, 25-20, 23-25, 23-25, 21-25. Kristen Etterbeek paced the Penn attack with 15 kills while Ronnie Bither dished out 44 assists in her collegiate debut.
The opening set showed many positive signs for the Quakers, who after breaking an 8-8 tie were never seriously challenged the rest of the way. Etterbeek had six of her kills in the first set alone, hitting .385, while Bither distributed 15 assists. Susan Stuecheli and Emma White each added three kills apiece to help the Red and Blue to the quick, 1-0 lead.
Penn again pushed ahead in the second set, but the Owls were able to respond, setting the tone for a see-saw battle that Temple eventually claimed to level the match at a set apiece. The Quakers claimed an early four-point lead but, after nine ties, the visitors from Broad Street survived to square the match heading into the break.
Both offenses came out ready in the third set, hitting their highest percentages of the night. Despite a .256 to .244 edge for the Quakers in that department, it was four return errors off Temple serves that staked the Owls to an early seven-point edge and helped them nip a late Quaker rally. Lauren Martin had four kills in the set for Penn, a number equaled by Jasmine DeSilva, who looked fearless entering the match for the first time.
Needing some kind of push to change the tone of the match, Penn got three early kills in the fourth set from Martin to help them to a 7-2 lead. But just as it seemed that the Quakers might be headed to a fifth set in their opening match of the year, Temple again stormed back, scoring seven consecutive points to take a 9-7 advantage. Though the score remained tight throughout, the Owls closed out their third victory on the season by scoring the final three points to break away for the 25-21 win.
Penn (0-1) concludes the Big 5 Tournament tomorrow with a pair of matches at The Palestra. The Quakers meet La Salle at 10 a.m. and close out with Villanova at 7 p.m. Temple (3-2) will take part in the two middle matches of a busy day of volleyball, meeting Villanova at 1 p.m. and La Salle at 4 p.m.