It was almost exactly a year ago that the Harvard women's volleyball team was eliminated from the Ivy League tournament with a five-game loss. Sometimes history repeats itself.
Harvard (14-13, 2-5 Ivy) was eliminated from the Ivy League tournament on Friday with a 3-2 loss to Penn (22-8, 5-2) at the Malkin Athletic Center.
With the loss, the Crimson's season also came to an end.
"We had a great season," said Harvard Coach Jennifer Weiss. "I am proud of the entire team."
The Crimson entered the tournament as the No.7 seed and had to face the No.2 seed Quakers in the first round. Harvard, however, was not intimidated by Penn and battled with the Quakers for five tough games.
After four games, the match was 2-2, with the Crimson winning the fourth game to avoid elimination. A spot in the semifinal round was reserved for the winner of the fifth and decisive game.
Penn jumped to the attack early, building a 5-1 lead over the Crimson. Harvard, however, would not see its season end so easily and fought back to a 6-6 tie.
Led by junior Erin Denniston, the Crimson went toe-to-toe with the Quakers. Denniston recorded powerful kills when Penn seemed to be controlling the rubber game and kept Harvard in it until the end.
However, it was Quaker freshman Elizabeth Kwak- Heferan and junior Kelly Szczerba that ended the comeback.
Kwak-Heferan and Szczerba, after dominating the match, took control of the final points of the fifth game, which Penn won, 15-11.
"Since we had home court, we thought we had a really good chance," freshman outside hitter Allison Bendush said. "We came in very confident."
The match had started promisingly for Harvard, which raced off to a 12-2 lead in the first game. Co-captain Katherine Hart, playing in what would be her final game in a Harvard uniform, energized the Crimson with her stellar play.
Hart was unstoppable in the early stages, leading the offense and defense with pinpoint kills and stifling blocks. Penn's play was shaky and inconsistent, leading to a number of errors in the opening game.
Soon the Quakers picked up the pace and won seven straight points to come within 12-9. Harvard would not let the game slip from its grasp and closed out, 15-10, for a 1-0 lead in the match.
"Everybody was happy that we were able to show up," Bendush said. "It was an exciting match."
The Crimson also jumped out quickly in the second game, taking a 9-4 lead on the surprised Quakers. It was then that Penn found its game, running off an 11-1 run to take the game, 15-10, and even up the match at 1-1.
The sudden outburst by the Quakers sent Harvard back on its heels, and it showed in the third game.
Penn amassed a 7-2 lead and later led 10-6. The Crimson, recovering from the previous game, fought back to 11-11, attempting to win the pivotal third game. The Quakers would not allow it and won the final four points to take the game, 15-11, and grab a 2-1 lead in the match.
Harvard, with the support of the home crowd, needed to win the fourth game to stay alive in the match.
Penn took the early lead at 6-4, but the Crimson went on an 8-0 run to lead 12-6. Denniston catalyzed this run, recording many impressive kills against the stingy Quaker defense. Harvard would force a decisive fifth game, winning the fourth, 15-10.
The comeback would not be complete as the Crimson fell in the final game and was eliminated from the tournament.
For Harvard, junior Erin Denniston led the attack with a match-high 20 kills.
Penn enjoyed great games by Kwak-Hefferan and Szczerba. Kwak-Hefferan recorded 16 kills and 16 digs while Szczerba had her second triple-double of the season with 15kills, 12 digs and 13 blocks.
Penn moved on to face Cornell, which had eliminated Brown in the first round. Penn fell to Cornell, and the Big Red took on Princeton for the championship.
The Tigers, which had eliminated Columbia and Yale from the tournament, were looking for its fifth Ivy title in seven years, and received it by defeating Cornell in five games. The Ivy champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.