Berkeley, Calif. - A valiant effort from the Penn volleyball team fell short on Friday night in the opener of the Molten Classic presented by Hilton Garden Inn. The University of California - coming off a win over No. 6 Hawaii - struggled with the Quakers, who silenced a raucous Haas Pavilion crowd many times throughout the evening. In the end, Cal was able to find the points it needed late, winning 25-23, 25-12, 25-19.
The first set proved crucial for Penn's hopes of springing the upset. After falling behind as much as five points at 10-5, the Red and Blue furiously rallied and took the lead for the second time in the set at 12-11. The teams continued to trade punches back and forth throughout the early going, evidenced by the 12 ties in the first set alone. Though Cal would use a three-point run to take a 20-17 lead, the Quakers scored three straight of their own out of a timeout to once again knot the set at 20-20. Penn's final lead of the set would come at 23-22. With the score once again square at 23-23, an Amanda Pacheco attack was ruled an error, giving Cal a set point which they capitalized on with a block of a Quaker attack on the subsequent point. Emma White led all players with five first set kills, while Pacheco added four.
Cal began to assert itself early in the second set. While Penn was able to grab a quick 2-1 lead after a kill from Kristen Etterbeek, the Golden Bears reeled off five consecutive points to take a 6-2 edge. The lead would extend out to 12-5 before the Quakers tried to stop the bleeding with a timeout. Coming out of the break, Jasmine DeSilva threw down a kill on her first touch of the ball, but the hosts from the Pac-12 continued the assault with another four straight to carry the lead into double-digits. Consecutive kills from Elizabeth Horner and Etterbeek drew the Quakers within seven late, but the bulge proved too much to overcome as Cal took a 2-0 lead.
The third set started out as a carbon copy of the first, as the lead swung back and forth between the teams. 11 separate ties saw the score still knotted at 14-14, but Cal took advantage of a pair of Penn attack errors to grab a 17-14 lead they wouldn't relinquish. On two occasions, the Quakers would close within two points of tying the score once again, but the Golden Bears came up with the points they needed to keep Penn from making a full recovery.
On the night, White led the Red and Blue attack with 11 kills while Pacheco chipped in eight, hitting .273. Ronnie Bither had 28 assists and Dani Shepherd provided 13 digs to lead the defense.
Penn looks to end its weekend on a high note with a pair of games beginning at 1 p.m. (PST) against Northern Arizona, winners in straight sets on Friday against UC-Riverside. The Quakers and Highlanders will then close out their tournaments against each other with a 5 p.m. (PST) start.
Download: Penn-Cal Box.pdf