PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A pivotal closing weekend to the regular season pits the Brown volleyball team against Penn on Friday at 7 p.m. and Princeton on Saturday at 5 p.m. when the Bears aim to stamp the seal on its winningest season since 2008.
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IVY LEAGUE STANDINGS
With an overall record of 11-12 and Ivy League mark of 7-5, Brown will finish at least .500 in Ancient Eight action for the first time since going 9-5 in 2005. A sweep of the Quakers and Tigers would tie that mark, while winning at least one of two matches would tie the Bears' 12-win season in 2008. Brown currently sits in fourth place in the Ivy League, putting the Bears in position for their first top-half finish in eight seasons. Harvard and Penn stand tied for second place with 8-6 league records, and if Brown wins both matches this weekend and the Crimson and Quakers each lose two, the Bears could catapult into second place with a 9-5 Ivy League record.
Yale solidified its fourth-straight Ivy League title last Saturday with a sweep of Princeton accompanied by Harvard's five-set loss to Penn. The Bulldogs are 11-1 in conference play.
LAST TIME OUT
Three Brown seniors took the court for their final regular season home matches at the Pizzitola Center last weekend and played a crucial role in wins over Cornell and Columbia. Senior captain Amanda Nickel (Corona Del Mar, Calif.) swatted 18 kills, nine of which came in the last two sets, to help the Bears endure a 3-2 decision over the Big Red. Nickel followed with 10 kills in Saturday's shutout of Columbia, while senior Alexandra Rieckhoff (Laguna Beach, Calif.) tallied her fourth double-double of the year with 10 kills and 15 digs. Senior Thea Derrough (La Jolla, Calif.) totaled 17 kills over two matches and ranks second on the team with 2.35 kills per set.
Junior Maddie Lord (La Jolla, Calif.) had a strong weekend offensively, going for 10 and 15 kills to land on the Ivy League Weekly Honor Roll for the fourth time this year. Freshman setter Sarah Lucenti (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) handed out 28 assists against Cornell for her second-best performance of the season, while junior libero Kathryn Conner (Newport Beach, Calif.) had 32 total digs to lead the Brown back row to 167 digs over seven sets.
SCOUTING THE QUAKERS
The second-place Quakers are the Ivy League's hottest team at the moment with a six-match winning streak that has Penn vying for a hold of the Ivy League runner-up spot with Harvard. Penn's surge began when the Bears and Quakers last met on Oct. 12 and Penn prevailed in three sets at the Pizzitola Sports Center.
Alexis Genske owns the hot hand as of late for the Quakers, and her 20-kill effort against Harvard was a career high that garnered Ivy League Co-Player of the Week honors for the sophomore outside hitter. Kristen Etterbeek leads the team in scoring with 2.66 kills per set to rank 10th in the Ancient Eight, while libero Dani Shepherd is the Ivy's most furious back row player with a league-best 5.49 digs per set.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS
Winners of three of their last four matches, the Tigers will look to return to favor of a 3-2 loss at Brown on Oct. 11. Freshman Cara Mattaliano ranks second in the Ivy League with 3.39 kills per set and sophomore Kendall Peterkin is hot on her tail with 3.36 kills per set for third place in the conference. The duo accounts for nearly 45 percent of Princeton's total offense and will be the target of Brown's leading blockers freshman Payton Smith (Atherton, Calif.) and junior Taylor Bantle (Pacific Palisades, Calif.).
The Quakers own a four-match winning streak over the Bears dating back to Brown's last victory on Oct. 14, 2011. This season, Penn took the three-set decision in Providence that ended Brown's run of three consecutive victories. Susan Stuecheli was the hero for the Quakers with 15 kills on an air-tight .636 hitting percentage.
Brown snapped a 12-match losing streak against Princeton earlier this season and endured a five-set battle to beat the Tigers for the first time in nearly seven years. Saturday marks the 54th meeting between the two teams with the Bears holding a 16-37 all-time record against the Tigers. Peterkin went for the double-double against Brown in the last showdown with 16 kills and 19 digs.
APPROACHING STATISTICAL MILESTONES
Several statistical milestones loom on the horizon for a handful of Brown players. Rieckhoff and Conner are each within striking distance of the 1,000 career digs mark. Conner's 32 digs over the weekend lifted her to 904 for her career, putting her in position to crack the 1,000 barrier next season, while Rieckhoff is the team's active leader with 929 on the strength of a career-high 268 bumps this season.
Lord sits at 751 career kills after posting her third straight 200-plus kill season and could crack Brown's top-five all-time career kills list if she reaches the mark of 1,079 set by Angela Dunn '02.