After four tough games on the road, the Quakers are back at the Palestra to play their final two home games of the season and keep their Ivy League title hopes alive.
“I definitely think our Ivy League goal is very much in the forefront of our minds,” senior libero Madison Wojciechowski said. “That being said, we need to take every team seriously.”
Penn (11-10, 7-2 Ivy) will open its two-game home stand against a competitive Columbia team on Friday night and cap it off with a match against Cornell (4-16, 2-8), which has faced its share of difficulties this season.
While both contests are crucial to the Quakers, the rematch against the Lions (14-7, 6-4) will most likely prove to be a greater test this weekend.
Though Penn defeated Columbia 3-1 in their first meeting Oct. 23, the Lions took early leads in three sets before the Quakers came back to earn the win.
Columbia, led by a young squad of solid hitters, enters Friday’s match having won five of its last seven Ivy matches and continues to show signs of improvement — for which Penn is prepared.
“We’ve made changes to our defense and we’re trying to make our offense more diverse,” sophomore middle blocker Amanda Pacheco said. “But clearly, I think it’s a mental game with us right now, so I think if we just stay confident and stay in it, we’ll have some good games.”
After a loss last weekend to Yale, the Quakers enter Friday’s match tied with Princeton and the Bulldogs at two losses each. With only two weeks left in the Ivy season, this three-way tie makes each match all the more crucial.
“I knew from day one that every single Ivy League match was going to be for the championship,” coach Kerry Carr said. “But it’s a weird scenario, we’re all tied across the board, everyone has to win out.”
Unlike Yale and Princeton, Penn has the added pressure of being the defending champions, and with only five games remaining in the season, the team may be starting to feel the heat.
“There’s definitely an added pressure, but it’s just the fight we need,” Pacheco said. “This is pretty exciting for us. It’s why we play sports.”
“There’s been pressure since day one, and there’s always pressure to repeat when you have a lot of people returning,” Carr said.
Nevertheless, the team is taking it just one step at a time — starting with Columbia.
“It’s the little stuff,” Carr said. “The little stuff is what we have to take care of.”
“Each of the five games is important in achieving our goals,” Wojciechowski said. “But for now, we’re trying to focus on each game and playing the best we can play so we can clinch the Ivy League title.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.