Volleyball Falls Just Two Points Short of Quieting Penn

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Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Gene Boyars

NEW YORK - In one of its most exciting matches of the season, the Columbia volleyball team went up 2-1 on defending Ivy League champions Penn and had match point in the fifth, before falling to a strong Quaker squad, 3-2 (25-20, 19-25, 23-25, 25-18, 17-15). With the heartbreaking loss at the Palestra, Columbia falls to 14-8 overall and 6-5 in the Ivy League, while Penn improves to 8-2 in the Ancient Eight.

Set one in the match saw Penn feeling comfortable on its own turf, going up early on, and staying there throughout the set. The closest the Lions got was within two points, before Penn pulled away at 16-10, and kept the gap wide from there on, ending set one, 25-20.

But Columbia couldn't be stifled, and set two saw the Lions come out roaring in the same fashion that the Quakers had in set one. Columbia went up 1-0 on an opening kill from Madeline Rumer, and stayed there for the duration. A kill by sophomore Megan Gaughn made it 4-1, and a service ace by first-year setter Colleen Brennan made it 5-1, and Penn called a timeout. But it didn't do much good for the Quakers, as Gaughn and junior Monique Roberts had a big block on the first play after the break, putting Columbia firmly in the driver's seat, 7-1. From there, a combination of Penn errors and strong offense by the Lions ended set two in the favor of Columbia, 25-19, tying the match up at one game apiece.

The third set of the night proved to be the first of several true battles of the evening, as the score was tied multiple times, and neither team took a commanding lead. Brennan and Roberts opened the set with a block, putting the Lions up 1-0, but just as with the overall match, Penn answered with a block of its own, tying it up at 1-1. From there, the two teams traded back and forth, as the score would be tied 11 times in this set alone. With the two teams matched up at 16-16, Columbia finally took what looked like the lead. A kill from Roberts gave the Lions an advantage, 17-16, and back-to-back kills from first-years Christina Campbell and Rumer made it 19-16 Lions, forcing Penn to call a timeout. A kill from Rumer, followed by yet another block by Campbell and Rumer put Columbia comfortably up, 21-16, before a kill from Campbell had the score at 22-17. But Penn refused to go down easily, answering with a kill, and scoring on the next four points, tying it up once more at 22. Just two points later, with the score still tied at 23, sophomore Gaughn came back in and notched two straight kills to single-handedly give Columbia 25-23 win, and the 2-1 lead in the match.

Columbia's own errors proved to be its downfall in set four, as Penn came out strong, and despite a battle early on, stayed tough, taking the fourth set, 25-18, and forcing a fifth set. The Quakers' heroic stand facing defeat carried over into the fifth set, as Penn went up 4-0 on Columbia early on. Columbia head coach Jon Wilson called a timeout to rally the troops, and it seemed to work, as a kill from sophomore Heather Braunagel brought the Lions within two, 6-4. But Penn managed to stay a step or two ahead of the Lions, using back-to-back kills from senior Julia Swanson to go up 14-10, and force the Lions to fight at match point. And fight they did. A kill from Gaughn made it 14-11, before a block from Campbell and Braunagel made it 14-12. A Penn attack error put the Lions within one, and a kill by Braunagel tied it up at 14-14. On the next play, Swanson took a swing at the Lions once again, but Campbell and Braunagel were there to block her, and suddenly, the game was in Columbia's hands, as the Lions had set and match point. Coach Wilson called a timeout, but it didn't work in the Lions' favor, as Penn opened with a block, and followed up with a kill, going up 16-15, and once again taking the fate of the game into their hands. The age and experience of the Quakers proved to be too much for a young Lion squad, as Penn ended set five with a huge block, taking it 17-15, and clinching the match, 3-2.

The Lions had stellar efforts across the board. Gaughn led the way with 16 kills and 15 digs to go along with her two service aces, while first-year Brennan also had a double-double, notching 46 assists and 14 digs. Rumer had 13 kills and seven blocks, while Roberts had 12 kills and seven blocks of her own. Junior Cindy Chen was a standout on defense, with six kills and 21 digs, while senior Martina Kajanova had 13 digs in the loss. First-year Katherine Keller led the Columbia defense with 24 digs, while her classmate Campbell had six kills and eight blocks overall.

Up next for the Lions is another tough match, as Columbia will head to Princeton to take on the Tigers, Saturday, November 6th, at 4 p.m. Last time out, Columbia and Princeton had another five set thriller, with the Lions taking the win on their home court, 3-2.

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