NEW YORK - The Columbia volleyball team notched the biggest win of its season Friday night, as the Lions upset league-leading Princeton, 3-2, handing the Tigers their first Ivy League loss of the year. The Lions beat Princeton 25-15, 20-25, 25-23, 21-25, 17-15 in front of a record crowd of over 500 fans. With the win, the Lions improve to 12-5 overall, 4-3 in the Ivy League. Columbia came out roaring in the first set, before going down 2-1, and rallying back to win two straight sets and take the match from Princeton.
Though Princeton scored first in the match, Columbia answered with kills from sophomore Megan Gaughn and first year Madeline Rumer, going up on the Tigers, 3-1. Gaughn was on fire from the service line, and one of her six service aces gave Columbia a 6-3 lead just a few points later. Kills from Gaughn, Braunagel and junior Cindy Chen helped keep the Lions ahead of the Tigers throughout the stanza. Columbia’s biggest run of the set came with first year Colleen Brennan serving, up 14-10. Gaughn notched a kill, a solo block and a kill to single-handedly put Columbia up, 17-10, their biggest lead of the set. From there, Kills from junior Megan Dillinger and first-year Alexandra Freschet were just the icing on the cake, as Columbia had set point, 24-15 with Chen serving. Sophomore Braunagel put it away for the Lions, giving Columbia the 25-15 set win, and a 1-0 advantage in the match.
The second and third sets went the way of the Tigers, as they rallied from a dismal hitting percentage in the first set to regain their footing, and hit .244 and .333 in those stanzas. Princeton’s outside hitter Lydia Rudnick led the charge for the Tigers, and finished the game with an outstanding 34 kills and 25 digs. But even a career game from Rudnick couldn’t stop the momentum of the Lions.
The fourth set saw Columbia come alive. With the added energy of junior Monique Roberts and first-year Savannah Fletcher at the net, Columbia was able to go up 6-3 on Princeton early on. Unlike the first set, however, Princeton would stay close throughout, forcing the Lions to play their best volleyball. Columbia was able to take a 16-9 lead on a kill from Roberts, and increased that lead to 17-11 with a Princeton attack error. Columbia was able to seal the lead with first-year Rumer serving. A kill from Braunagel put the Lions up 21-19, and a kill from Roberts made it 22-19. A block by Gaughn and Roberts gave the Lions one more point, and a service ace by Rumer gave the Lions match point, 24-19. Though Princeton would score twice more, Columbia was able to seal the win 25-21, tying the match up, 2-2.
Set five would prove to be the most charged of the night, as both the home crowd and the team were energized by the comeback. With over 400 fans on their feet for the duration of the stanza, Columbia did not give up. Princeton took a 3-1 lead early on, and though the Tigers seemed to have temporary momentum, they couldn’t match the energy of the home crowd. Columbia stayed close, though they were down for most of the set. It wasn’t until they were down 12-9, facing elimination in just three points that the Lions came alive. Back-to-back kills from Roberts were the spark, and it was a kill by Chen and a service ace by Gaughn that tied it up, 12-12. Gaughn also gave Columbia the first lead of the set with a kill on a pass from Brennan, and a block by Megan Dillinger and Roberts put the Lions up 14-12. Princeton called a time out, giving the Tigers a chance to slow the Lions down, and temporarily, it worked. Princeton was able to tie it up at 14, and take the lead 15-14. Facing match point, Columbia got a huge kill from Gaughn, tying it up at 15 once again, and keeping the Lions in the game. A kill by Braunagel gave Columbia match point, and with first-year Katherine Keller serving, junior Cindy Chen ended it with a kill, allowing the Lions to rush the court and one of the biggest crowds in program history to celebrate a 17-15 fifth set win, and a 3-2 overall victory.
Columbia had one of its best team-wide efforts of the season, and possibly in program history. Gaughn led the Lions overall, as she had her ninth double-double of the year, with 16 kills and 16 digs along with a career high six service aces in the match. Junior Cindy Chen had one of the best games of her career, notching 10 crucial kills including the match winner, and a career-high 28 digs on defense. Rumer had 12 kills and three blocks, while Roberts provided an essential spark for the Columbia offense, playing the last two sets and notching 16 kills and two blocks. First-year Colleen Brennan also had a double-double, with 42 assists and 12 digs, while first-year Katherine Keller was outstanding on defense with a team-high 32 digs. Sophomore Braunagel was also a force on offense, with nine kills.
Up next for the Lions is another one of the strongest teams in the Ivy League, defending champions Penn, who are 5-1 in the Ivy League and 9-9 overall. Columbia will take on the Quakers in Levien Gymnasium, Saturday, October 23 at 7 p.m.