It was three games and three heroes for Penn volleyball in this weekend's inaugural Big 5 Tournament.
Facing match point in the fifth set of Friday's opener against Temple, sophomore Logan Johnson entered the game for the first time and served consecutive aces to propel Penn to victory.
But Johnson's late heroics weren't needed Saturday afternoon against La Salle, as senior Elizabeth Semmens dominated the fourth set with 10 kills, guiding the Quakers to a 3-1 victory.
Ultimately, however, another senior earned tournament MVP honors - middle blocker Ashley Hawkins - who recorded a career-high 17 kills in the Quakers' title-clinching 3-2 victory over Villanova.
"We just couldn't stop her," Villanova coach Josh Steinbach said. "She was up quick and she's got a good arm and she sees the court well. She's a tough matchup for anybody."
Penn (3-0) got off to a slow start against the Wildcats (5-2). After dropping the first set, they were trailing 17-11 in the second set when Villanova's best attacker, sophomore outside hitter Morgan Petkovich injured her ankle landing awkwardly after a kill and was carried off the court.
The injury rattled the Wildcats while giving the Quakers a chance to regroup, and Penn rallied to win the set, 26-24, with help from five Villanova errors on the last seven plays.
"The one thing that we talked about in the locker room afterwards is that we have to cope with adversity a little bit better," Steinbach said. "The fact that we couldn't cope with that difference made the difference in the match."
Villanova regained its composure to win the third set, despite five kills by Hawkins.
But in the fourth set, Hawkins was too much for the Wildcats to overcome. She slammed kills on three out of four points to give Penn a 21-18 lead that it would never relinquish.
Great defense throughout the tournament provided Hawkins with plenty of scoring opportunities, which she converted at an astounding .521 clip.
"Whenever we get her the ball, the ball goes down," Penn coach Kerry Carr said.
Hawkins recorded 10 kills each in the wins over Temple (3-3) and La Salle (1-7), while Semmens led the Quakers with 50 total kills on the weekend and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team.
But the most encouraging sign from the weekend might have been the play of the freshmen.
"We saw a burst of greatness from Lauren Martin, Amanda Pacheco and Lauren Davis," Carr said.
Against Temple and La Salle, Martin totalled 18 kills and Davis added seven, while Pacheco tallied three impressive solo blocks to go with three block assists.
And this is only the beginning.
"I think those girls are going to come a long way, and if they come a long way this season then that's even more power to us," Carr said.
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