With an 11-0 conference record, the Penn volleyball team is one win away from locking away its spot in the NCAA tournament.
After beating Cornell last week the Quakers obtained their 20th win of the season — a feat that was last accomplished in 2003, when the squad won its most recent Ivy Championship — and a share of this year’s title.
If Penn wins just one of its matches this weekend against Harvard or Dartmouth, it will have sole possession of the crown once again. An outright championship would be coach Kerry Carr’s fourth Ivy title, Penn’s eighth, and will secure a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Luckily for the Quakers, the games against Harvard tonight at 7 p.m. and Dartmouth tomorrow at 4 p.m. will both be held in the Palestra.
Penn hopes for a big turnout at what could be the first Ivy title this academic year.
The Quakers have had to prepare for two very different teams in the Crimson and Big Green.
“Harvard has a bigger offensive strength and blocking game,” Carr said. “We have to take them out of their offense by serving tough and playing to places where their defense has to move and scramble.”
The Crimson’s offense is led by two sophomores. Anne Carroll Ingersoll leads the Ivies in blocks with 1.14 per set and is sixth in the League with a .298 hitting percentage following directly behind Penn’s Lauren Martin who has a .303 clip.
Harvard’s second offensive threat is Sandra Fryhofer, who leads the conference in hitting percentage at .318.
“If we pass well and we serve well,” Carr said, “we could dominate them.”
These two aspects were actually problems for Penn in its last game against Cornell where the Quakers had to come back from a 2-0 deficit to win the game.
Dartmouth, on the other hand, is a strong defensive team.
“You know everything is coming right back at you,” Carr said. “And it doesn’t always come back in orthodox ways so we have to be ready for a lot of different styles of volleyball coming at us.”
Last time these teams played, the match went the distance. Dartmouth is the only Ivy team — besides Penn— to beat last year’s Ivy champs, Yale, in the last two years.
The key to defeating the Big Green is patience. A key player for Dartmouth will be sophomore Madeline Baird. She ranks fifth in the League in kills with 3.61 per set.
Big Green senior Megan MacGregor also poses a threat, having the second greatest amount of service aces in the league — .33 per set.
“We have to outlast them in the long rallies,” Carr said.
Penn senior co-captain Elizabeth Semmens has demonstrated her endurance, as she was a key player for the Quakers in their last matches against Harvard and Dartmouth.
Most recently against Cornell, Semmens was not able to play as well as she has been hurt throughout the season.
“Julia [Swanson] stepped up when she wasn’t connecting at Cornell last weekend and our middles also had a better night than our outsides,” Carr said. “But that is what makes us such a strong team this year is that we are not relying on just one hitter.”
But they are counting on one more win.
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