Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 40
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
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NEW REIGN: Princeton University women’s volleyball head coach Sabrina King makes a point during a recent match. King, a 2001 Princeton alum and former Tiger volleyball standout, has guided the Tigers to a hot start in her debut campaign at the helm of the program. Princeton is currently 10-5 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, tied with Yale (9-4 overall, 3-0 Ivy) atop the league standings.

Starting Reign at Helm of PU Women’s Volleyball, Tiger Alum King Bringing Ivy Title Experience

Bill Alden

Sabrina King knows what it takes to lead the Princeton University women’s volleyball team to the Ivy League championship.

As a star player for the Tigers from 1997-2000, King was part of three league championship squads (1997, 1999, 2000). The outside hitter was the Ivy Player of the Year in 1999.

King, a 2001 Princeton grad, rejoined the program as an assistant coach in 2002 and helped guide the Tigers to league crowns in 2004 and 2007.

After taking a brief hiatus from the sport to work in a non-profit educational organization, King has returned to the program as its head coach and has Princeton in the hunt for another Ivy title as it has started 3-0 in league play this season.

“It is a really special opportunity; I was excited to be presented with opportunity to work for the team that I love,” said King, reflecting on her homecoming. “I missed the girls and the competition.”

King is applying her considerable competitive fire as she takes the helm of the Tigers.

“There is pressure to have results; there is pressure to lead a team,” said King.

“Not everything is going to be perfect. I am the person responsible for their lives and livelihood. I put pressure on myself to do well.”

In the early going, King’s players have shown a knack for coming through in pressure situations.

“They have learned to play tough matches; they like to play with their backs to the wall,” said King, whose team is 10-5 overall and tied with Yale (9-4 overall, 3-0 Ivy) atop the league standings. “I would like them to manufacture that intensity earlier.”

The Tigers did show some intensity in the Ivy League opener on September 23 as they edged defending league champion Penn in a five-set thriller.

“That match is always competitive; it is a longstanding rivalry,” said King, whose team rallied from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to pull out a 24-26, 25-19, 20-25, 25-21, 15-9 victory.

“The girls were up for the match. We played well and came out on top; it took a lot of heart to get through that match.”

Continuing their flair for drama, Princeton produced two more five-set wins this past weekend as it nipped Harvard, 25-13, 25-21, 21-25, 23-25, 15-9, on Friday and then topped Dartmouth, 25-19, 20-25, 25-17, 15-25, 15-11, the next day.

“Harvard is always tough; they can rally at random times,” said King, who got 15 kills and eight blocks from senior star Cathryn Quinn in the win over the Crimson while freshman Ginny Willis recorded a match-best 48 assists.

“It is an up and down team. If you give them an inch, they can go. I was not impressed with our lack of ability to sustain a high level of play in that match. We came back from a fourth set loss. I was not confident they would do that. Statistically, the team that wins the fourth set usually wins the match. We had a little bit of slippage the next day; Dartmouth is good. They played up, they rose to the occasion.”

King likes the way veteran stars Quinn, junior Lydia Rudnick, and senior Hillary Ford, have been rising to the occasion so far this fall.

“Cathryn has been consistent all season,” said King. “Lydia is working on her game. She had some health issues and is getting back to her old self. Hillary is our most consistent back row player; she is a real worker.”

The Tigers have been getting consistent production from a trio of freshmen in Willis, Sarah Hanna, and Nicole Kincade.

“Ginny is a great competitor; she has a great head for the game,” said King. “Sarah and Nicole are both showing well offensively.”

With the Tigers having slumped to an 8-6 Ivy mark last fall after a 5-0 start in league play, King is hoping to keep that history from repeating itself.

“We hope they learn from the past,” said King, whose team heads to New York this weekend, playing at Columbia (8-5 overall, 2-1 Ivy) on October 7 and at Cornell (3-11 overall, 0-3 Ivy) the next day.

“The league is tight; we could just as easily be 0-3 as 3-0. I tend to focus on the things we are doing wrong; I hope that eases up. I am starting to see more positive things. They have a lot of potential and I am pushing them to realize it.”

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