PHILADELPHIA, Pa. The Penn volleyball team claimed a crucial road victory Wednesday as they swept the Villanova Wildcats, 3-0 (30-28, 30-20, 30-23). For the Quakers (6-5), it was their first victory over Villanova (9-6) since a 3-2 win in 2004, and their first at Villanova since a 3-2 triumph in 2003.
The Red and Blue took the victory behind a balanced offensive attack. Senior Laura Black led the Quakers with 10 kills, while senior Anna Shlimak and freshman Julia Swanson each had nine. Sophomore Natalie Drucker helped the Quakers continue their strong net defense, registering four block assists. The Quakers outhit the Wildcats .243 to .035.
“Villanova is a strong offensive team,” said head coach Kerry Carr. “We were able to transition into kill opportunities when we were out of system with our non-setters setting. We were aggressive tonight, and that is why we came out on top.”
The Quakers hung on for a close 30-28 victory in the first game. Penn jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, forcing Villanova to call timeout. After that, the game tightened up, although Penn maintained a lead for the majority of the contest. A late charge by the Wildcats was not enough to overtake the Red and Blue. Black and junior Kathryn Turner each had four kills in the game. Drucker assisted on two blocks as the Penn net defense continued to be a strong point. The Quakers outblocked Villanova 2-0 in the game.
Game Two was all Quakers, as they turned in a 30-20 triumph. Black pounded home four more kills, while Turner, Shlimak and Swanson each contributed three. The Wildcats attempted to mount a late rally but could not overcome the large early lead Penn had mounted.
It appeared that the third game would be the opposite, as Villanova controlled the game early and jumped out to a 19-12 lead. But Penn kept battling, and after the score was 20-14, the Quakers rattled off a 16-3 run to claim victory in the game and the match. Drucker led the team with five kills in the match. Swanson had four while Shlimak pounded home three.
“We weren’t serving or playing defense well in the third game,” Carr said. “When you can have a down moment like that and not spiral downward, that is the mark of a true championship team. To come back from that and finish on top and dominate the second half of the game makes me very proud of the team.:
The win propels the Quakers towards the Ivy League season, which opens Saturday with a 7 p.m. trip to Princeton.
“This is the first important match of many,” Carr said. We were hoping this would give us the boost we need to go into that next level and beat a strong team. Princeton will be up for us and we will be up for them. Whoever can play solid for the whole match is the one who is going to come out on top.”