A lot has changed between the 2010 and 2011 season for the co-Ivy champion Penn volleyball team.
But when it comes to the annual Big 5 tournament at the Palestra, this year’s result was much the same. Penn nabbed easy wins against Temple, 3-1, and La Salle, 3-0, but with city bragging rights on the line, fell to Villanova, 3-1.
Serving as the team’s first measuring stick, the results of the Big 5 tourney proved not only illuminating for Penn’s shot at a third consecutive title, but promising as well.
“I think this was a great weekend for everyone,” coach Kerry Carr said after the tournament, in which juniors Lauren Martin and Amanda Pacheco received All-Tournament honors.
Penn easily dispatched both Temple (2-3) and La Salle (1-6). However, the offensive firepower of Villanova (4-2) was too much, as was tournament MVP Morgan Petkovich, who finished the game with 23 kills. As a team, Penn totaled 41.
“On paper, Villanova should have beaten us worse than they did,” Carr said. “They were able to beat us pretty handily in the first two sets.”
But Penn regrouped and came back to take the third set.
“Overall, we were playing three very different teams in terms of their offensive tempos, which will help us down the line,” Carr added.
That next step in the line comes Friday, when the Quakers head to Ohio to compete in the Rocket Classic against Ohio State, Alabama and Toledo, all of which Carr said are superior to the competition at the Big 5 tournament.
“We can improve enough during practice this week to beat that type of team, but this week is about our growth as a team, not about the final results,” Carr said.
Since earning their share of the Ivy title and a bid to the NCAA tournament by defeating Yale — and winning 13 of their last 15 games in 2010 — the Quakers have lost six seniors, including Ivy League Player of the Year Megan Tryon and first team All-Ivy selections Julia Swanson and Madison Wojciechowski. With seven new freshmen, there’s some doubt regarding Penn’s chances of an Ivy League three-peat with such inexperience.
Expectations for the league champions do not die with an inexperienced team, though, and Carr acknowledged the holes she is trying to fill in her lineup.
“We’re really young and inexperienced at those three positions — outside hitter, libero and setter [previously filled by Tryon, Swanson and Wojciechowski],” she said.
“I guess the word is growing. The people we have at those positions are very athletic but it is a matter of getting them experience and confidence in their abilities.”
Carr identified juniors Martin and Pacheco, both second team All-Ivy players last season, along with sophomores Susan Stuechli and Kristen Etterbeek as key to continuing Penn’s reign in the Ancient Eight.
“We’re just a very deep team,” Carr said. “We have lots of girls who can come in and contribute at different points in the match.”
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