Big Green almost get sweep on road
The Palestra. The home to the University of Pennsylvania Basketball and Volleyball teams. It holds 8,700 fans at capacity. The Penn Athletics web page advertises it as "the most storied gymnasium in the history of college basketball." The Dartmouth women's volleyball team entered the weekend winless from within the 70-year-old walls.
A new tradition started Friday night, however, as the Big Green (16-3, 3-1 Ivy) made the Palestra their home and the Quakers (5-10, 1-4 Ivy) losers with a three-game win, 15-5, 15-2, 15-13.
Saturday's result at Princeton was not as friendly, as the Big Green grabbed the Tiger by the tail in the first game, but the Tiger's bit back to take the match, 5-15, 15-13, 15-11, 15-9.
The Big Green offense came out sluggish, but the defense was able to pick up more than its share.
"When we were faltering in our hitting, the rest of our game picked up," Dartmouth Head Coach Ann Marie Larese said.
"They had a lot of fans and it was kind of intimidating at first," Anne Murray '00 said.
The Big Green turned the intimidation tables on Penn early in the match, with middle blocker Latia Curry '98 leading the charge at the net. Curry's contributed four solo blocks to the team total of 10.
"Latia definitely stepped it up," Stasia Bochnowski '98 said. "We were able to get a solid block and our defense was able to read it well."
A four-year Dartmouth volleyball veteran, Bochnowski was with the team two years ago when they lost a close-match at the Palestra.
"It was an amazing, emotional match for me and I think for everybody," Bochnowski said. "It was a great experience to finally pull it out."
Statistically for the Big Green, Janna Merryfield '00 led the team with 12 kills and 16 digs.
The win pushed Dartmouth's win streak to eight games, but it all came unraveled in Saturday's afternoon match against Princeton. Like their trip to Philadelphia, the Big Green went into Princeton without a win on the Tigers turf.
Riding high from the previous night's victory, Dartmouth jumped all over the Tigers to open the match.
"They started making hitting errors and we took advantage of their mistakes," Larese said.
"Their strength is on the outside. They don't tip, they don't roll, the just swing on it," she added. "We were able to block all their hard driven balls."
Dartmouth opened up a 7-1 lead in the second game before the Tigers came alive. The errors that Princeton had been making disappeared and the strong play of their outside hitters took over.
"We were up and they were making mistakes," Murray said. "They turned it around all of a sudden and we weren't ready for it."
"We became less aggressive on blocking," Larese said. "Their two outside hitters became more of a factor."
Bochnowski, a defensive specialist, saw the barrage of kills that penetrated the defense.
"When we can't get a solid block up, they can hit on the outside," she said. "It was kind of scary on the backrow sometimes."
Princeton's offensive numbers were just as scary. The Tigers' 68 kills almost doubled those of the Big Green.
"You can't let a team like Princeton into the match. Once we let them in, we knew we were in for a dogfight," Larese said. "They're a very confident team and they know somehow they'll find a way to win the match."
Bochnowski remains confident about Dartmouth's chances for the rest of the season.
"We all know we're a better team," she said. "We're definitely looking forward to playing them again."
"The match helps us keep things in perspective and remind us how close the league really is," Larese said.
"The one thing that really improved this weekend was our blocking," she added. "We were touching more balls and slowing them down."
The Big Green travel to Harvard on Friday to face the Crimson, who remain the lone unbeaten team in Ivy League play. Dartmouth beat Harvard in an exhibition match in the spring.
"It was pretty exciting," Danra Kazenski '99 said. "The reason that we won was that we were so confident from lifting."
"Winning 16 of 19 matches is pretty good." Larese said jokingly. "I'm sure we'll be ready to play on Friday."