How can one achieve victory on a level playing field?
This is a question that the volleyball team needs to ask itself as it digs deeper into conference matches.
This weekend, the Quakers will take on Ivy heavy-hitters Dartmouth and Harvard at the Palestra.
Last weekend Dartmouth (12-3, 3-1 Ivy), considered to be at the top of the Ancient Eight, fell to Columbia, a traditional conference doormat. Meanwhile, Harvard (5-11, 2-2) — the only Ivy team to top the Quakers last season — fell to the Big Green.
At this point last season, the road to the conference title was much clearer for a Penn squad that had already defeated its two top challengers — Princeton and then-defending champion Yale.
This season, however, the Quakers have a cloudier outlook, and no team can be taken lightly.
After a challenging nonconference season in which they won four of twelve matches, the reigning Ivy League champs fell to Princeton in their first conference match before coming back to take down Yale and Brown last weekend.
“The League is incredibly equal across the board this year,” Carr said. “There’s no one team that dominates. We have complete parity here. We have all of these teams that are all in the middle. Anyone can win or lose on a given night.”
The key to success for the eight Ivy competitors this season will be the ability to adapt to whatever their opponents serve them. It was this very trait that allowed Princeton to overtake the Red and Blue in their first conference match after the Tigers lost the first two sets.
“Princeton adapted their defense to our offense and started digging all of our best hitters,” Carr said.
Taking a lesson from that early loss, the Red and Blue tweaked their strategy against Yale and Brown mid-game after both teams’ defenses neutralized the Quaker hitters at the onset.
“We became diverse in our offensive attack, and we started going to different areas of the court rather than where their defense had shifted to,” Carr said.
“We stumbled in one set while we figured that out, figured out where they were, and we went in the other direction,” she continued. “We were able to broaden our angles of attack, and they couldn’t be in both places at once.”
The Quakers proved that they can adapt their offense to competitors by defeating Yale and Brown. But against Harvard and Dartmouth, the strength of their defense will most likely be called into question.
Penn have shown its ability to set up successful digs, and the team has at its disposal powerful defensive specialists like Madison Wojciechowski, who is sixth in the nation in digs per set.
Whether or not these strengths can stand up and adapt to the offense of the competition remains to be seen.
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