The Harvard women’s volleyball team split the first two home games of its Ivy League season this past weekend, earning its first conference win over Penn after falling to Princeton a day earlier.
Against the Quakers (6-8, 1-2 Ivy), the Crimson rallied to a five-set win, 16-25, 25-15, 17-25, 25-22, 15-13, Saturday evening at the Malkin Athletic Center.
“Moving on, this is a great confidence booster,” said freshman outside hitter Kathleen Wallace after Harvard’s win over Penn.
The night before, Harvard finished on the other end of a five-set match against the Tigers (6-7, 3-0), who defeated the Crimson, 25-23, 22-25, 24-26, 25-21, 15-8.
Harvard (4-10, 1-2) will continue its homestand with matches against Brown (3-9, 0-3) and Yale (7-5, 3-0) next weekend.
HARVARD 3, PENN 2
A wave of joy and relief swept over the Crimson after sophomore middle blocker Caroline Walters punched in the match point to clinch Harvard’s first five-set win of 2012.
“Because we’ve lost a few fifth games [this season], I think we were all really tense near the end,” said junior right side Erin Cooney. “But when we won that, there was so much excitement and emotion.”
The Crimson and the Quakers traded blows early as momentum shifted frequently between the two teams. The Quakers opened with a 25-16 first-set win, before Harvard responded, 25-15, in the second.
After losing the third set, 25-17, the Crimson fought to stay in the match. Harvard responded to an early 13-6 deficit with a 6-0 run to keep the set close. Down 20-19 later in the set, the Crimson notched three straight kills before Penn tied the set, 22-22.
But Harvard won the last three points to take the fourth set, 25-22, forcing a fifth.
“I think it was a really big game-changer for us because we were down a lot,” Cooney said. “Being able to come back from that and bring it to a fifth game really gave us the momentum to win.”
A back-and-forth fifth frame involved seven ties and four lead changes. But the Crimson seized control at just the right moment, scoring the final two points of the match to edge the Quakers, 15-13.
“I think this is the best way we could have [won our first Ivy League game of the season], overcoming our fifth-game barrier,” Wallace said. “I think we’ve proved to ourselves that we can win the fifth game when we compete.”
Wallace and captain outside hitter Taylor Docter led Harvard with 14 kills apiece, and Docter, senior setter Beth Kinsella, and freshman setter Hannah Schmidt each recorded their second double-doubles of the weekend. Kinsella and junior setter and defensive specialist Natalie Doyle had a team-leading 19 and 18 digs, respectively. Cooney also contributed 13 kills for the Crimson.