Perfection is never easy. And with a final road stretch this weekend testing an undefeated conference schedule, perfection is certainly not getting any easier for the Penn volleyball team.
With yet another hurdle on their quest to be the best of the Ivies, the Quakers look to square off against Columbia and Cornell in their final road bouts of the season. Penn first plays Columbia tonight at 7 and then takes the long drive up to Ithaca, N.Y., to face Cornell tomorrow afternoon at 4.
It will be an arduous road trip, both mentally and physically draining.
Penn (18-4, 9-0 Ivy) has only five games left this season, with high hopes of an Ivy Championship. The Quakers are a top team, with an .818 team winning percentage, which is 20th in the country. Furthermore, Penn is ranked 12th in the nation in kills per set (14.39), and 13th in both assists per set (13.45) and digs per set (17.67).
On the other side of the net, Columbia and Cornell will be calling all hands on deck to take down powerhouse Penn. The Lions (11-12, 2-8) are led offensively by freshmanMegan Gaughn who averages a team-high 4.01 kills per set and is supported by sophomore Monique Roberts, one of the top blockers in the Ivy League. Cornell (6-15, 3-7), led by captains Juliana Rogers and Megan Mushovic, looks to avenge a prior loss to Penn and come out victorious at their last home game.
As an undefeated force, the Red and Blue know they are a target, and have to maintain their concentration to stay perfect.
“We have to focus on one game at a time,” coach Kerry Carr said. “We are cautiously optimistic, and don’t look beyond any opponent.”
Carr knows the weekend ahead will be tough, and does not underestimate her competition nor the effect of the grueling hours spent on the bus.
Last year, after a similarly long trek on the road, Penn dropped a match to Cornell that Carr acknowledges “should not have happened.”
This time, however, Carr knows her team is ready.
“We get better each week,” she asserted. “We are looking to expand what we do with more range. We want each player to be more dynamic, and understand every role on the team.”
The Quakers are led by junior setter Megan Tryon, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week after Penn’s defeat of defending champion Yale and Brown last weekend. She helps serve up freshman Lauren Martin, who is coming off of an amazing game against Brown in which she tallied a match-high 15 kills in three sets while hitting .444. She earned co-Rookie of the Week honors, her third time this season she received this recognition.
With an Ivy League title in sight, Carr and the team are treating each game like an Ivy Championship game. Their motto: “Get better, get stronger — every practice.”
Perfection is in sight, but Penn must be careful to stay focused. At the top of the pack, everyone is gunning for you.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.