PHILADELPHIA - Behind 16 kills from Lauren Martin and a double-double of 10 kills and 19 digs from Kristen Etterbeek, Penn fought off an early challenge from a feisty George Mason team, improving to 4-3 on the season with a 3-1 (25-21, 20-25, 25-16, 25-21) win. Dani Shepherd had 26 digs to lead the Quakers while Ronnie Bither controlled the offense with 36 assists.
Penn began the match on a tear, opening up a 7-2 lead within minutes of the first serve. George Mason would get within a point as the set wore on, but could never pull even. Susan Stuecheli was the catalyst for the Quaker attack in the set, cashing in five kills on six attacks for a .833 hitting percentage.
The Red and Blue would again open a comfortable lead in the second set, but this time they were their own worst enemy. Ten attack errors and three service errors in the set whittled away a four-point edge that Penn enjoyed at 14-10. After George Mason tied it, they went on a second 4-0 run in the set to take a 22-18 lead that proved too much for the Quakers to overcome. Penn hit just .021 in the set, but the offense would make vast improvements after the break.
Both teams came out hungry in the critical third set, playing to seven ties and four lead changes in the early going. Trailing 11-10, Penn received back-to-back kills from Etterbeek and Martin, followed by a GMU attack error to take a 13-11 lead they would never give back. The Quakers closed on a 14-5 spurt to turn a tight set into a laugher, giving themselves the 2-1 lead in the match.
The Quakers continued to hammer away in the fourth set. After a Stuecheli kill tied the set at 6-6, she and Martin combined on a block to give Penn a 7-6 lead they would hold nearly all the way to the finish. The Patriots hung tough throughout the set and eventually pulled back even at 17-17, but Amanda Pacheco was on the receiving end of an Alex Caldwell pass and smashed her only kill of the set to put the Red and Blue back up, 18-17. That was the start of a 5-1 run that all but ended George Mason's hopes. The final two Quaker points were supplied by Martin, as she again and again was able to find the holes in the Patriot defense. All told, Penn committed only seven attack errors combined in the third set and fourth sets after hitting double-digits in the second set alone.
In other action during the first day of the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Penn Invitational, Radford defeated George Mason, 3-0, and Rutgers felled Radford, 3-0. If both can win their opening matches tomorrow, Penn and Rutgers would be on a collision course for a winner-take-all match at 5 p.m. to decide the tournament champion. The Quakers will start the day with an 11 a.m. meeting with Radford while the afternoon session will get started with George Mason against Rutgers at approximately 1 p.m.
Download: Penn-GMU Box.pdf