Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium — one of college sport’s most recognizable arenas — is a place where NCAA basketball championship aspirations materialize.
Except this weekend, it’s not about cutting down the nets, it’s about dominating them.
The Penn volleyball team (17-10, 12-2 Ivy) will compete this afternoon in Durham, N.C. against Mid-America Conference champion Ohio University (21-12) in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“We’re definitely used to playing away from home, as we have had our key wins against Princeton and Yale on the road,” coach Kerry Carr said.
“We’re actually glad we’re not going to an environment we’ve seen a lot. I think it’s much better to go to into an arena we’ve never played in before.”
The Quakers — who have won 13 of their last 14 — will face the best blocking team in the nation, as the Bobcats average 3.09 blocks per set.
In the practices leading up to the match, Carr has addressed covering blocked shots and converting them to kills in addition to hitting around big blocks.
The Bobcats are led by MAC Tournament MVP and MAC East’s Offensive Player of the Year Sue Jacobi, who is No. 22 in the nation with 4.22 kills per set and junior Katie Post who is No. 10 in the nation with 1.42 blocks per set
Penn is coming off a play-in game against Yale two weeks ago, which, according to Carr, helped reveal her team’s weaknesses.
“It took a lot of mental toughness in the [Yale] game,” senior librero Madison Wojciechowski said. “We really came together as a team. Having a lot of energy and the same goal in mind helped us in that game and gave us momentum going into the tournament.”
The team used the extra game to ramp up their preparation for the tournament and left for Durham Wednesday night. Penn practiced Thursday and watched film while adjusting to their new surroundings.
“The nerves are a big part of the tournament,” senior setter Megan Tryon said. “When you walk into the gym there are a lot of fans, and since so many of us were there last year, we know what to expect with all the rules and the regimented pregame.”
Last season the Quakers won their first ever NCAA tournament match, beating Army in University Park, Pa., before losing to eventual national champion Penn State in the second round.
They will look to match the experience of Ohio, who is making its eighth straight appearance in the tournament.
“[Having played in the tournament last year] gives us confidence,” Carr said. “Six of the girls were here last year and it can be a little Hoosiers-like walking into the big arena, but we’re not there anymore.”
“We did that last year. The fact that we did beat our first round opponent last year shows that we are capable of being a top-32 team in the country.”
The winner of the match will face the winner of Atlantic Coast Conference champion No. 12 Duke against Big South champion High Point.
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