PHILADELPHIA - In a matchup that had the next wave of Ivy League volleyball talent on full display, freshman Kelly Johnson (12 kills, 20 assists, 26 digs) and Yale were able to outduel Penn's dynamic rookie duo of Alex Caldwell (13 kills, 16 assists, 14 digs) and Ronnie Bither (20 assists, 11 digs) as the Quakers fell to the Bulldogs by a score of 3-1 (23-25, 25-19, 17-25, 17-25) on Friday night at The Palestra.
A meeting between the two defenses ranked first and second in the nation in digs didn't disappoint as both Penn and Yale refused to let the ball hit the deck, racking up nearly 100 digs apiece. That intensity was particularly on display in the first set. Just as it was the first time these two programs got together in October, the first set swayed back and forth. Down 14-11, Yale blinked first and used a timeout after Caldwell's third kill in the early going. The Bulldogs answered right back and tied it for the seventh time at 15-15, forcing a break in the action from the Penn bench. From that point on, neither team could establish a lead of more than two points, but with the score knotted at 23-23, the Bulldogs grabbed the lead with Mollie Rogers' eighth kill of the set and took a 1-0 lead after a Penn attack error on set point.
The Red and Blue responded back immediately, setting the tone by scoring the first three points of the second set. With Dani Shepherd providing 12 of her 35 digs in the second set alone, the Quakers became the aggressor, limiting the Bulldogs to a .071 hitting percentage in the set. Penn would grow the lead to as much as eight points but had to hang on as Yale attempted to come back in the late stages. With the Quakers up 21-13, the Bulldogs reeled off four straight to halve the Penn lead. A ball handling error proved costly for Yale however, as Penn took advantage of the miscue and received kills from Lauren Martin, Susan Stuecheli and Caldwell to close out the 25-19 win, tying the match at a set each.
The Quakers fought hard to even things out in the third set after Yale had established an early 6-2 lead. Four straight points from Penn that included kills from Caldwell and Emma White even gave the Red and Blue a momentary lead at 11-10. That's when Haley Wessels took over for the Bulldogs. With three kills in quick succession, Yale took the lead and never looked back, sprinting to a large lead and notching the final three points of the set to squelch any hopes of a Quaker comeback, taking the 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-17 victory.
Playing with the lead, Yale made it hold up, scoring the first two points of the fourth set and never trailing on its way to a 25-17 win. Through three sets, Penn had committed fewer errors than the Bulldogs, but things unraveled for the Quakers late on. The Red and Blue had errors on a full fourth of its 41 attacks in the set, giving Yale 11 free points in the process.
Penn (12-10, 7-4 Ivy) will wrap up the home portion of its schedule tomorrow at 5 p.m. when they face the Brown Bears (6-15, 2-9 Ivy) on Senior Night from The Palestra. Six members of the Class of 2013 will be recognized for the Quakers.
Download: Penn-Yale Box Score.pdf