If defense wins championships, the Penn volleyball team might have reason to be concerned.
The Quakers — who have struggled defensively this season — dropped two matches this weekend at the Palestra, losing on Friday night to Princeton and on Saturday to Marquette.
Penn was plagued by inconsistency and a lack of defensive focus in Friday’s conference opener that could develop into a major obstacle as the team tries to defend its Ivy League title.
After winning the first two sets 26-14 and 25-15, the Quakers dropped three straight sets to the Tigers (6-6, 1-0 Ivy).
“We had a very up-and-down practice week and that really translated to our performance this weekend,” senior libero Madison Wojciechowski said.
According to Wojciechowski, the difference between the first half of the match and the second was more mental than physical.
“Their game is slower than our game,” she said. “We got sucked into their game and didn’t have the mental energy to get out.”
Coach Kerry Carr reiterated the team’s lack of mental toughness after Friday’s game.
“We didn’t adjust [in the second half],” Carr said. “We thought we could do the same things we had been doing and … that to me is a sign that we think we’re better than them.”
After dropping Friday’s contest, the Quakers (7-2, 1-0) had little time to regroup before Saturday’s Dig Pink match — an initiative to bring about awareness and raise money for breast cancer research — against Marquette (9-7).
On the court, the Quakers fought with their strong Big East opponent for two close sets, but ultimately the Golden Eagles took over and won in three sets.
Despite the loss, Carr saw the performance as largely positive.
“We wanted to see if we could play with the big dogs and we proved we can,” Carr said.
The Marquette match was the finale of the Quakers’ grueling nonconference schedule, which included some of the top teams in the country. Going forward, the Red and Blue think that this will give them a leg up on some of their Ivy League opponents.
“When you play tougher teams, you tend to raise your game to the next level,” Wojciechowski said. “Going into the Ivy League, we will be used to a higher level of play than our opponents.”
However, Penn also recognized that it will have to work on certain aspects of its defense in order to repeat as Ivy champs.
“We have to be more aggressive,” Carr said. “We can’t sit back and let it happen to us and forget about our blocking assignments. We can’t play defense passively.”
It is unclear how the loss to Princeton will affect the Quakers moving forward, but coach Carr believes that it will be the “wake-up call” that her team needs.
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