Sarah Daschbach ’16’s serves helped Princeton open the Ivy League season with a win over Penn. (Office of Athletic Communications)
Sarah Daschbach '16'€™s serves helped Princeton open the Ivy League season with a win over Penn. (Office of Athletic Communications)

For the last four years, Yale has held an iron grip on first place in Ivy League women’s volleyball. Each Ancient Eight team knows that the key to dethroning the Bulldogs is winning out their other Ivy matches, since Yale has gone undefeated in league play only once in that time.

Add that kind of heavy Ivy pressure to the fact that Princeton’s league opener against Penn has gone deep into the fifth set in each those four years, and the odds start stacking up against the Tigers. But this Friday in Philadelphia, Princeton broke with this tradition and pulled out a quick three-set victory, pulling the team up to 6-5 overall on the season. The 25-15, 25-16, 25-14 win was a much needed confidence booster for the Tigers—it is their only three-set victory this season.

The match didn’t look so bright for Princeton at first. Penn held a 10-8 lead early in the first set, until junior libero Sarah Daschbach embarked on a 10-0 service run to blow the Quakers away. Daschbach’s serves would be critical in the second game as well, when she built up the Tiger lead in an opening 9-0 run.

“Smart and aggressive hits were the key to success,” Daschbach said. She also pointed to junior Kendall Peterkin and sophomore Cara Mattaliano’s offensive skills, saying on the backcourt, “Kendall and Cara are great at hitting from the back row and giving us plenty of offensive options.”

Princeton struggled with taking and holding early leads last season, and senior Nicole Kincade, who hit .400 for the match for 13 kills, said that the Tigers focused on smaller scale skills in practices to try and win over those critical points this time around.

“We have also been working on siding out right away and serving aggressively to take other teams out of their element,” Kincade said. “Our team also has a lot more confidence this year in ourselves and in each other which is helping us to perform really well.”

The Ivy season’s opening season bodes well for the Tigers. Yale also began play with a three set win over Brown, but it wasn’t easy. After taking the first set in an easy 25-14, the Bears clawed their way back in the second set to a 25-20 defeat, and closed the gap even more to 25-23 in the last game.

The Tigers return this season with more depth (especially among seasoned upperclassmen players) than in recent years. Peterkin, a two-time Ivy League Player of the Week, and Mattaliano, who earned Rookie of the Week honors last year, are filling much of the offensive holes left by standout player Lydia Rudnick ’13. Defensively, Daschbach has finished in the top five in the Ivy League in digs since her freshman year.

Princeton has a huge chance next week to get ahead early when it hosts Cornell for its Ivy home opener. The Big Red, which will head into Dillon Gymnasium on a three-match losing streak, split its matchups 1-1 with Princeton last season. The Tigers started their Ivy season on the right foot—the chase for the Bulldogs’ crown will be tighter than ever this year.

Quick Takes

The football team rebounded from last week’s loss in San Diego with a blowout 56-17 home opener victory against Davidson on Saturday. Junior Dre Nelson set the tone of the matchup in the first 14 seconds when he returned the opening kickoff for an 89-yard touchdown. Quarterback Quinn Epperly ’15 was back in dominant form, rushing for four touchdowns himself and completing 15 of 18 passes for 176 yards. The Tigers begin their Ivy season against Columbia next week in New York.

Women’s soccer emerged victorious in their Ivy opener. Sophomore sensation Tyler Lussi scored the lone in Saturday’s game against Yale with six minutes to go. The Princeton-Yale series stayed true to a strange home field disadvantage—the hosting team has lost each of the last eight matchups. The 2-3-2 Tigers will hope to even out their record on the season when they return home to face Dartmouth next week after playing three games on the road.

The field hockey squad continues to struggle in the NCAA year, falling to 3-5 on the season after a tough loss to No. 12 Albany on the road. The game was scoreless until deep in the second half, when Albany tacked on a pair of goals to seal the win. Junior Maddie Copeland put Princeton within closest range to scoring, firing off a couple of close range shots early on in the game, but in the end Princeton was checked to just five shots to Albany’s 10. Despite nonconference difficulties, the Tigers are undefeated in Ivy play with a pair of wins and will look to extend the streak to three when Princeton heads to play Columbia on Friday.