It was a tough weekend for Penn volleyball in Maryland where the team traveled to play in the Terrapin Invitational.
The Quakers opened tournament play Friday night against host Maryland, who defeated the Red and Blue in three sets. The next morning, Penn struggled against Tulane and once again failed to take a set — however, the team made a comeback later that day against Fairfield, winning each of three sets, 25-17.
After opening their season against familiar foes in the Big 5 tournament, the Quakers (3-3) faced tougher non-conference opponents this weekend.
“I don’t think we’ve been challenged like that in a long time,” head coach Kerry Carr said.
Though the Terrapins (8-1) finished last season with a lower RPI than the Quakers, Maryland has an impressive record against strong teams and entered the tournament in the midst of a five-game winning streak.
Tulane (2-7), meanwhile, competed in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament, where they were eliminated by volleyball powerhouse Louisiana State.
Early in the tournament, the Red and Blue struggled to keep their serves consistent, which made it difficult to make full use of their powerful offense.
“When [serving] was inconsistent was when we got behind, and we couldn’t get a set on the ball to get to our offense,” Carr said.
She added that the Quakers had trouble “getting down in a set by a large string of points and not being able to get out of that hole in time enough to win the set.”
But the Red and Blue fought to come out strong against the Fairfield Stags. “It was difficult, but we knew we had the experience to do it,” sophomore middle blocker Amanda Pacheco said. “I think we did a good job of keeping composure and knowing that we could beat them and we had the ability to.”
Though the Quakers walked away from the tournament with only one win, there was a silver lining to the weekend.
Senior Julia Swanson hit a career-high .519 during the match against Fairfield. Pacheco, meanwhile, made the All-Tournament team, standing out by hitting over .400 in two games and averaging .399 for the weekend.
On the defensive side, senior libero Madison Wojciechowski also made her presence known, delivering over 50 digs throughout the weekend.
The team has also improved in what were some of its weaker areas entering the season.
“Our blocking has gotten a lot better,” Carr said. “We blocked strong against the strong teams. We blocked strong against the weak teams. So that is definitely one of our new strengths that we found this weekend.”
The Quakers will see their next action in California, where they will face some of the toughest teams in Division I, including No. 13 UCLA.
Challenging though it may be, strong competition is exactly what the Red and Blue need if they hope to defend last year’s Ivy title and improve on their second-round finish in the NCAAs.
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