Fair Harvard has her Crimson and Dartmouth has its Green, but it is Penn volleyball that has last year’s Ivy League title and is looking to repeat.
Despite the team’s solid play in recent weeks, the Quakers are not looking just to maintain their high level of play heading into this weekend’s matches against Harvard and Dartmouth — they are looking for ways to improve.
“We’re still focused on getting better,” said coach Kerry Carr. “We’re not just going to the gym to be the same team we were last weekend.”
With Penn in a fierce battle for the Ivy title, a major part of that effort includes knowing how to prepare for teams that it has beaten before.
“We’re expecting them to come out harder with more heart, and we know it’s going to be tough,” said senior setter Megan Tryon.
In Penn’s first encounter with the Crimson, the Quakers (13-10, 9-2) did not trail once the entire match and held Harvard (8-16, 5-7) to a -0.29 hitting percentage, completely throwing the Crimson off their game. However, Penn doesn’t believe it will be so easy this time.
“Harvard is a really tall team and they’re going to get some blocks against us,” said senior outside hitter Julia Swanson. “We’re going to work really hard to cover our hitters and not let that scare our hitters into not hitting as hard as normal.”
The Big Green (13-10, 4-8) are expected to provide an even stronger challenge than the Crimson. Despite a stifling Penn defense that restricted Dartmouth to a 0.135 hitting percentage, the match still went to a fifth and final set before the Quakers pulled out a victory.
“I think that Dartmouth is scrappy,” Carr said. “You have to be patient and wait for the moment that you can find a hole in their defense.”
One added difficulty this weekend is that the Quakers will be playing on the road, where they are 5-7 on the season compared to 8-3 at home.
Additionally, this weekend’s matches will occur on senior night for both Harvard and Dartmouth — circumstances that could lead to two emotional matches.
However, with no home games remaining on the schedule and a second-straight conference championship within their grasp, the Quakers will have to get used to playing away from the Palestra.
“We need to approach both of these teams with composure and tenacity in order to beat them,” Carr said.
With only three matches left to play, the Quakers are hoping that everything they’ve learned will translate into victories.
“The mindset is to bring out what we’ve improved on in practice and show that we’ve also got some new things up our sleeves,” Tryon said.
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