After three straight marathons against its local rivals, the Princeton women's volleyball team was looking more for a Friday night sprint. The Tigers maintained their position at the top of the Ivy League standings with an impressive 3-0 win at Penn.
Princeton's 25-22, 25-21, 25-20 victory, only its second sweep of Penn at The Palestra in the last decade, moves the Tigers to 14-6 overall, 7-1 in the Ivy League. For at least one night, Princeton stands alone in first place. Yale will attempt to share the position when it travels to Brown Saturday.
While Princeton relied on its All-Ivy pairing of Lydia Rudnick and Cathryn Quinn heavily last weekend, the Tigers were far more balanced at Penn. Rudnick (11 kills, nine digs, four blocks) and Quinn (10 kills, three digs, three blocks) led the way, but head coach Sabrina King got valuable contributions from several other sources.
Freshman setter Ginny Willis, the two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week, recorded 30 assists and killed three balls on four swings, while freshman Sarah Hanna had six kills with no errors and added five digs. Senior libero Hillary Ford added 19 digs in a win that featured terrific Princeton defense. The Tigers limited Penn to a .085 attack percentage and forced the Quakers into 26 errors, while they committed only 15.
King also got some big contributions off her bench. Sophomore Leah Jordan had three kills and three blocks with no errors, while Francie Jenkins added four kills, three digs and a block in her best showing during the Ivy League season.
"I was really proud of our bench, which really sparked the team when we needed it," King said. "Being on the road is tough, and some of our younger players might not have been ready for the more hostile environment at first, but they showed more toughness as the match went on. It's only going to get tougher as the season goes, and any road win in the league is big. We have to keep working hard and getting better."
Princeton got two big service runs from its sophomore class to take control of the opening set. Tied at 7, Chelsea Parker served Princeton on a 6-1 run to take an early lead. The Quakers, who have now lost four straight league matches, chipped away, but Chelsea Brombal served the Tigers on a late 6-1 run in the eventual 25-22 win.
Penn built an early 10-6 lead in the second and eventually held an 18-16 lead, but Brombal guided the Tigers on another long run. Princeton won seven straight points to get to 23-18 and used a Rudnick/Quinn block to build a 2-0 lead in the match.
Unlike its Harvard match earlier this season, when Princeton needed to win a fifth set after going up 2-0, the Tigers would not let this match go any deeper than three sets. Despite an early deficit, Princeton battled back and ultimately ran away with a 25-20 win.
The Tigers face the always-challenging Dartmouth-Harvard trip next weekend. Princeton will open the weekend at Dartmouth Friday night at 7 p.m.; the Tigers beat the Big Green 3-2 in Dillon Gym earlier this season.