Volleyball ends season with losses to Princeton and Penn

by Tianchi Xu | 11/16/09 11:00pm

The Dartmouth women's volleyball team closed out its season on the road this weekend in disappointing fashion, losing to Princeton in a hard-fought five-set tiebreak on Friday before falling in four sets to league champion University of Pennsylvania on Saturday.

With the two losses, Dartmouth (11-13, 7-7 Ivy) dropped to fifth place in the Ivy standings.

"We definitely had our ups and downs this season, but we are a much stronger team now," co-captain Megan MacGregor '10 said. "Volleyball is such a mental game. We reconnected with our focus mid-season, and at that point we saw a different, more effective team."

Following the weekend action, Penn (21-5, 12-1 Ivy) walked away as Ivy League champion, while Princeton (11-13, 9-4 Ivy) settled for third place.

Before Saturday's game, the Quakers had already claimed a share of the title, but had to best Dartmouth in order to claim the title outright.

In the opening frame on Saturday, Dartmouth came fast out of the gates to build an initial 6-2 lead. Penn evened the score at 10 before the Big Green retook the advantage with a 5-0 run.

Led by junior Julia Swanson, however, the Quakers delivered down the stretch to eke out a tight win, 26-24.

"We fought hard in the first game of the match, but we needed some big points at the end to finish it," MacGregor said. "If we had won that first set, we would have had a lot more momentum going into the rest of the match."

Riding on its momentum, Penn secured an early lead at 6-3 in the next set. Despite a Big Green counterattack that tied the score at nine, the Quakers began to pull away, boosting an 8-2 surge and keeping the Dartmouth offense at bay. Penn would cruise to a 25-17 second frame victory.

The Big Green, however, settled into a consistent tempo in the third set to keep pace with the high-powered Quaker frontline and snatched the third set, 25-22.

Dashing any hopes of a come-from-behind victory, the Quakers' hammer came down decisively on Dartmouth in the fourth frame. Storming to a 7-2 advantage, Penn muscled ahead to a 20-10 lead. Eleven points later, with a 25-16 fourth-set victory, Penn became the Ivy champion.

Co-captains MacGregor and Morgan Covington '10 both finished with 12 kills in their last match for Dartmouth. Madeline Baird '12 had a team-high 21 kills, while Alissa Santa Maria '13 notched 35 assists with 15 digs.

Penn senior Elizabeth Semmens led both teams with 22 kills.

In Friday's matchup, the Big Green, coming off a confidence-boosting victory over Yale, looked to extend its four-game winning streak.

"The victory over Yale was a product of all the hard work we had put in over the season," Covington said. "It showed us what the team could do when we put our hearts into the task at hand and maximized our potential."

Dartmouth struck the first blow on Friday to take the first set against Princeton, but was inconsistent from that point forward.

Princeton would go on to win the second and third sets, 25-21 and 25-17, respectively.

The Big Green seized control in the fourth set to force a fifth-set tiebreak. Tied at 12 in a point-for-point final set, however, a Dartmouth service error sealed the game. Two quick Princeton kills abruptly ended the hard-fought duel.

Covington said the outcome of the match hinged on crucial moments of the fifth set.

"We just needed a little more effort at the end of the game," she said. "Some crucial mistakes were made when the game was close, and I think that caused the momentum to change."

Baird led the team with 25 kills, while MacGregor added 15 kills and 17 digs.

Princeton senior Sheena Donohue recorded a match-high 26 kills and a team-high 17 digs.

Next year's team will need to look to build off of the work of this year's squad, Covington said.

"We will have a strong core group of girls next year," Covington said. "Next year, a big focus of our game will be blocking, defense and mental toughness. If we can improve in just one of these areas, I think we will win more games in the future."

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