Ivy Co-Champ Princeton Falls 3-1 In Thrilling NCAA Playoff Match At Harvard
An epic, made-for-the-storybooks season for the Princeton women's volleyball team fell one match short of the NCAA tournament. The Tigers battled through a thrilling four-set match in Cambridge, but Harvard pulled out a 3-1 victory to earn the league's automatic bid to the postseason.
Princeton, which became the first team in Ivy League history to come back from an 0-3 start to win the title, won the opening set 25-20, but Harvard took the final three 25-15, 25-21, 25-23 to advance to NCAAs.
"I'm so proud of our team for the fight they showed all season, as well as tonight," head coach Sabrina King said. "They represented Princeton with tenacity and pride all season, and they battled their hearts out tonight. It hurts right now, but they should feel incredible pride about what they accomplished this year. I congratulate Harvard on winning a great match, and I wish them the best of luck in the NCAAs."
Ivy League Player of the Year Cara Mattaliano was spectacular once again, recording 22 kills and 13 digs in the loss. Freshman middle Nnenna Ibe had 11 kills, the second-most of her season, and five blocks, while All-Ivy senior Kendall Peterkin had eight kills, seven digs and two blocks. Freshman Claire Nussbaum had 45 assists to end her rookie All-Ivy League season.
Princeton opened the match on absolute fire, killing 12 balls with only three errors in the first set. Mattaliano and Ibe combined for nine of the kills with only one error, as the Tigers carried the momentum of its season-ending seven-match win streak.
The Harvard offense stole the show in the next two sets, hitting .375 and .324 to open a 2-1 lead. Following a dominant 25-15 victory in the second set, the Crimson ran off eight of the final nine points in the third set to turn a two-point deficit into an advantage. The fourth set was loaded with drama, and Princeton took a 22-20 lead on the final kill of Peterkin's spectacular career. Harvard took the next three points, but Ibe evened it at 23-23 with her 11th kill.
Harvard got a kill from Corinne Bain and a block that Princeton just couldn't get back to clinch the match.