Following Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Yale, Penn now faces an uncertain road back to the Ivy championship and the NCAA tournament.
The Ivy setback was the second of the season for the Quakers (11-10, 7-2 Ivy), who are now behind the Bulldogs and level with Princeton in conference standings.
However, the Red and Blue still control their own destiny heading into the remainder of the slate and will finish as at least co-Ivy League champions if they win out.
“We have choices to make: how we’re going to approach practice today, how we’re going to work today and how its going to translate into our performance in the matches,” said coach Kerry Carr.
Saturday’s loss snapped a seven-game win streak for the Quakers, who last lost to an Ivy opponent in their conference opener against Princeton on Oct. 1.
“There really wasn’t anything wrong with us expect that we were playing a team that was playing outstanding across the net,” Carr said. “We are usually controlling [the momentum] from start to finish. They had our number bumping quite a few of our hitters.”
Though Penn defeated Yale (14-7, 8-2) three weeks ago, the much-improved Bulldogs dominated across the net in the second contest. Yale’s stifling defense and top-ranked offense ultimately proved to be too much for the Quakers to overcome.
“Last time we played Yale, they didn’t play like that,” Carr said. “We met a team that was playing at the top of its game and we just needed to tighten up ours a little bit. Hopefully we can learn that everyone is vulnerable and it is going to be a dogfight for every single match.”
This time around, Yale junior and Ivy League Player of the Week Bridget Hearst had seven kills in the first set and finished with 16 overall. As a team the Bulldogs had 11 blocks, a tribute to their team defense.
With five games remaining in Ivy play, Penn hopes to take a lesson from 2009 when it lost a late season match to Harvard.
Carr emphasized the need to keep working hard and met with players to discuss how to come on strong at the end of the season.
“We’re making our choice to go for the Ivy League championship this year,” the coach said. “It’s not like we have wait for someone to lose we control our destiny.”
The surest way for the Quakers to reclaim their spot at the top of the Ancient Eight is to win its final contests.
However, that task may be easier said than done.
The Quakers must beat a Dartmouth squad that took them to five sets earlier in the season and avenge their loss to Princeton in the Ivy opener. Still, Carr seems aware of the challenges her team faces.
“We’re not cruising through the last three weeks,” Carr said. “From the practice, conditioning to weights to games is going to be the hardest three weeks we’ve ever worked in our lives.”
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