With more than 400 fans investing every ounce of their vocal cords, the Princeton women's volleyball team won a gritty 3-2 battle against Penn to start its Ivy League season in the most dramatic way possible.
After dropping the fourth set and dealing with a match filled with slow starts, the Tigers were determined to be first out of the gates in the final set. Two kills from freshman Cara Mattaliano and another from Tiana Woolridge helped the Tigers to a 5-2 lead. Penn rallied and ultimately evened the set at 11-11, but the Tigers ran off the final four points for a 21-25, 25-17, 25-23, 15-25, 15-11 victory.
"I couldn't be any prouder of the fight we showed tonight," said head coach Sabrina King. "This was a tough match, and Penn is always a tough opponent, but we showed the kind of resolve I believed we had. We still have to get better, but this was a great way to start the season."
Sophomore Kendall Peterkin reminded the crowd why she earned first-team All-Ivy League honors as a freshman. She led all players with 21 kills and added eight digs and two service aces, including a crucial laser serve to grab a 10-8 lead in the fifth.
Princeton also got terrific play from its middles, who haven't been on the court together since the start of the season due to injuries or school commitments. Both Woolridge and Nicole Kincade combined for 31 kills and only seven errors; Woolridge hit .520 for the match, while Kincade set the tone in the fifth set with a big block.
While those three were well aware of the pressure of Ivy League play, a pair of newcomers showed impressive resolve in a tense environment. Freshman setter Lauren Miller recorded a match-best 59 assists and helped the Tigers hit .313 for the match, while Mattaliano had a double-double with 14 kills and 11 digs. She also added two of Princeton's six service aces.
Senior Kelsey Janke didn't have an ace, but she may have had the most crucial service stretch in the match. Penn led through most of the third, including a 19-14 advantage. Princeton started to chip away, and the crowd fed on the comeback with each passing point. Down 23-20, Peterkin recorded a kill, and Janke took over on the serve. She ran off the final four points, two of which came on Mattaliano kills, to send Princeton to the 2-1 advantage.
Princeton will play its next four Ivy matches on the road, starting next Friday with a showdown at Cornell. The Tigers return to Dillon Gym Oct. 18 for a matchup with Dartmouth.