PHILADELPHIA - Facing an opponent they had defeated seven consecutive times entering the match, the Penn volleyball team had to battle not just the Cornell Big Red on Friday night, but also overconfidence. Things were rarely comfortable for the Quakers, but the critical points in the match swung their way as they took home a 25-21, 27-25, 25-23 win that was much closer than the final 3-0 margin would indicate. Emma White led Penn with a double-double of 12 kills and 12 digs.
The most wide open set of the night undoubtedly came in the first. A .364 hitting percentage combined with a total of 11 Cornell errors were enough to push Penn to victory, but just barely. The set was tied early and often and the lead changed hands back and forth up until the score was knotted at 19-19. A kill from Alex Caldwell gave the Quakers the lead for good, and she combined with Amanda Pacheco to swat away a Cornell attack attempt on the next point, giving the Red and Blue a two-point margin. A couple of attack errors from the Big Red combined with two late kills from White gave the Quakers the 1-0 lead after a 25-21 win.
Cornell roared out of the gates in the second set, taking a quick 6-1 lead. After re-inserting Ronnie Bither into the match, the freshman found Susan Stuecheli for a massive kill on the subsequent point, giving Penn the side out it was looking for and momentarily quelling Cornell's momentum. From a 6-2 deficit, the Quakers eventually turned things around and led by as many as seven at 21-14. Though the Big Red began to chip away at their deficit, things remained comfortable after another Cornell error gave Penn a set point, leading 24-20. Suddenly, the Big Red found their footing. Five straight points turned the set on its head and gave the visitors an unexpected chance to tie the match with a 25-24 lead. With Kerry Carr opting to let her team play through the situation they had gotten themselves in, the Quakers rose to the occasion. Penn's defense produced the digs it needed on the next point until White could tie the match at 25-25. Two kills from Kristen Etterbeek later, the Quakers could breathe a little easier as they led in the match, 2-0.
The Big Red refused to go quietly in the third set leading by as many as five points at 14-9. Five blocks by Cornell helped contribute to a total of 11 attack errors from Penn in the set, but still the Quakers hung around thanks to another strong defensive effort in the back row. The Red and Blue had 29 digs in the third set alone, limiting Cornell to a .043 hitting percentage and keeping the score from getting out of hand. Once the Quakers got in an offensive rhythm, they quickly caught the Big Red and seemed primed to pull away. But up 22-19 in the late stages, a pair of attack errors from Etterbeek was part of a three-point run that pulled Cornell even. Rather than look elsewhere for its offense, Bither went back to the junior outside hitter a third straight time and this time she delivered to put the Quakers back ahead, 23-22. On the next point, Etterbeek again was in the middle of the action, combining with Pacheco for a block that gave the Red and Blue a pair of match points. Though Cornell was able to fight one off, a ball handling error gave Penn the victory, 25-23.
Etterbeek and Stuecheli helped White shoulder the offensive burden, recording nine kills each. Bither spearheaded the Penn attack, recording 27 assists along with four kills and nine digs. National digs leader Dani Shepherd upped her season average with 25 on the night.
Penn (7-8, 2-2 Ivy) closes out its weekend at home with a 5 p.m. match tomorrow evening against the Columbia Lions.
Download: Penn-Cornell Box Score.pdf