As scheduled, the Ivy League kept playing women’s volleyball through Nov. 14. But the title race ended early for all but Princeton.
When the Tigers beat Brown Nov. 9 to improve their league record to 12–0, they rendered moot the league’s remaining six matches. The win clinched Princeton’s first outright league title since 2000 and earned the Tigers a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“We never got nervous or scared,” said libero Jenny McReynolds ’08 of her front-running team. “We became fired up to the point where losing was no longer an option.”
The night after the Brown match, the Tigers swept Yale to give head coach Glenn Nelson his 560th win, eclipsing the Princeton record set by former softball coach Cindy Cohen. McReynolds said that win “made this season really magical — as corny as that sounds,” though Nelson said he “kind of low-keyed it: ‘You know, whatever.’”
Nelson, a winner of 12 previous Ivy titles, has seen success before. This year’s team, though, won its championship in historic fashion by recording the first undefeated season since the league went to a 14-game schedule in 2001.
Going from a 2–3 preseason start to a 22–3 finish, the Tigers marched steadily through their schedule. Penn and Dartmouth both pushed Princeton to five games, but no one else came as close. With a 3–1 win over Penn in the regular season finale Nov. 14, the Tigers made their case as the best team in Ivy history.
“We have a unique chemistry, and we think that the program as a whole is different,” said outside hitter Parker Henritze ’09. “We’re usually dancing during warm-ups rather than scouting every team’s hitters. We have a lot of fun.”
Though Princeton ranked sixth among the Ivies in digs and last in blocks, defense mattered less with solid passing and the league’s three most prolific hitters all playing on the same side of the net.
Henritze, outside hitter Sheena Donohue ’10, and middle blocker Lindsey Ensign ’09 each recorded more than four kills per game to take the league’s top three spots in that category. McReynolds picked up 5.65 digs per game, and setter Bailey Robinson ’09 led the league in assists.
Though Nelson and assistant coach Sabrina King ’01 assembled the Tiger lineup, the longtime coach said he rejects the tendency to micromanage. He refers to the players as “them,” not “we,” in an effort to assign due credit. “We give them an offense, a defense, some dos, don’ts,” Nelson said, “and we let them play.”