NEW YORK – The Columbia volleyball team was one point away from sending the match into a fifth set, but they were bested by defending champions Penn Saturday, 3-1 (25-21, 25-22, 20-25, 26-24). With the loss, Columbia stands at 12-6 overall and 4-4 in the Ivy League, while Penn shares a hold on first place, at 6-1 in the Ancient Eight.
Home for the second time in as many nights, Columbia came out using the home court advantage. The Lions went up early 7-3 on Penn, with kills from sophomore Megan Gaughn, and a service ace from first-year Colleen Brennan. But Penn used a kill to tie it up at 8 and take the lead capitalizing on Columbia errors. The Quakers were up 14-12 when the Lions went on a 4-0 run, using a kill from Gaughn, a block from sophomore Heather Braunagel, a service ace by first-year Madeline Rumer, and another block by Gaughn and Braunagel, to go up, 16-14. The Lions would stay up for a bit, until it was 21-18, and Penn went on a run of its own. The Quakers scored six straight points, four of which were Lions errors, to take the lead and seal the first set win, 25-21.
The second set of the night saw the two teams stay much closer, but again, Columbia had an early advantage. The Lions went up 4-2 on kills from junior Monique Roberts and Rumer, but Penn was able to come back and tie it at 7. The score would be tied again at 8, before Columbia took the lead back. Gaughn went on a run, scoring three straight kills and putting the Lions up 12-9, before Penn was able to stop her and get back on the board. But a service ace from Brennan, followed by a kill from Gaughn made it 16-10 Columbia, the largest lead for the Lions of the night. But Penn made a run of their own, scoring six straight points and running the table, outscoring the Lions 15-6 in the end of the match, taking the 25-22 win.
Down two sets, Columbia came out in the third set with a kill from Braunagel and blocks from Braunagel, Brennan and Gaughn to take a 3-0 lead and set the tone for the set. A kill from Rumer made it 6-3, before Penn was able to come back and nearly tie it, 7-6. Columbia was able to stay just ahead and it wouldn’t be tied up until 9-9. At that point, the two teams went back and forth, tying the game up and taking the lead. Eventually, Penn took a 19-17 lead, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. A kill from Gaughn, followed by kills from Rumer and first-year Savannah Fletcher made it 20-19, and coming out of a timeout, a block by Fletcher and Rumer made it 21-19. A solo block by Rumer just a few points later made it 25-20 Columbia, keeping the Lions in the match, 2-1.
Set four was a true indicator of how well the two teams were matched up, as the first fourteen points went by without either team taking a lead of more than one. As the Lions and the Quakers traded points back and forth, it wasn’t clear who would pull ahead. But at 8-8, with a kill from Cindy Chen, Columbia started to find a groove. With Chen serving, Columbia went on an 8-0 run, taking a 16-8 lead. The Lions were able to stay up from there, though Penn closed the gap to 20-17. Columbia was even up 22-18 before the Quakers really found their stride. Three straight Lion errors tied the set up at 22, but Columbia was able to stay just ahead, using a bad set by Penn and a kill from Roberts to go up 24-22, for set point. The Lions were just one point away from forcing a fifth set, where the game was anyone’s. But two Penn kills tied it up and put the Quakers ahead 25-24, and though the Lions fought valiantly, an attack error ended it, giving Penn the fourth set, 26-24, and ending the match 3-1 in favor of the Quakers.
The Lions had several strong performances across the board. Gaughn had her tenth double-double of the season, with 21 kills and 12 digs, while Rumer had 12 kills and Roberts had seven. Chen had six kills and 15 digs, while first-year libero Katherine Keller led the Lions with 18 digs. Fletcher and Braunagel were huge at the net, with five and six blocks, respectively.
Up next for the Lions is another big Ivy League weekend in Levien Gymnasium, as Columbia will host Dartmouth and Harvard, Friday, October 29 and Saturday, October 30, with matches slated to start at 7 p.m. and 5 p.m.