During her third preseason as the head coach at her alma mater, Sabrina King talked excitedly about the depth and competition in her program. Princeton would no longer need to rely on one player for any responsibility, and that showed in the Tigers' first match of the season, a 3-1 comeback win at George Mason.
Freshman Cara Mattaliano made her collegiate debut a memorable one, recording 17 kills and 16 digs in Princeton's 18-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-18 victory over the Patriots in the first match of the George Mason Tournament. The offense was spread around, though, as five players had at least seven kills in the victory.
Sophomore Kendall Peterkin, a first-team All-Ivy League honoree last year, finished second on the team with 12 kills, though she had the two biggest of the match. With the match tied at 1-1, Mason had won five of six points to cut a third-set deficit to 23-22. Peterkin took a set from freshman Lauren Miller and put away a ball to give Princeton a set point, and she finished it off two points later.
Princeton went on a 9-2 run, which included a trio of service aces from sophomore Sarah Daschbach, early in the fourth to give the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish. Mason got within five points, but junior Francie Jenkins finished the match with her career-best eighth kill.
Miller led Princeton with 25 assists, while All-Ivy junior Ginny Willis added 22. Daschbach had a team-best 17 digs, while Mattaliano had 16 and senior co-captain Chelsea Parker added 15. Junior Tiana Woolridge had eight kills, two blocks and hit .429 in the win.
"I think this was an incredible start to our season," Woolridge said. "We were able to shake off some nerves in the first set and come together as a team to dominate the next three. I think communication was our biggest asset during this game. And we had so much fire and energy both on and off the court. Everyone on the team was dialed in and supporting each other, which can be a challenge on such a big team. Overall, I'm extremely proud of my teammates for starting the preseason so strong."
Woolridge was especially excited for Mattaliano, one of several players who will try to replace the production of graduated All-Ivy outside Lydia Rudnick.
"I'm so proud of Cara's performance," Woolridge said. "The stats don't even show how well she did out there. She really played like an upperclassman — calm, controlled, and ready to adapt to changes in the game as necessary. I already love playing with her. She reminds me of Lydia on the court so much."
Princeton returns to the court twice Saturday, starting with an 11 am showdown against Coppin State. The Tigers conclude the tournament at 5 pm against Radford.