Penn faced off against Princeton and Delaware this weekend, losing both hotly contested matches.
On Friday night, the Quakers (4-7, 0-1) were at Princeton to kick off the Ivy League season. Despite very strong play, the Red and Blue lost the match in a tight five-setter, marking the third straight time the two teams have gone to a fifth set.
“We started out strong and we didn’t do that last year, so that’s a huge turnaround for our team,” coach Kerry Carr said. “We got away from [our game plan] at times when we got a little tense, so we need to work on that.”
Penn took the first set, 26-24, but dropped the second, 19-25, due to strong serving from the Tigers (7-5, 1-0).
The two teams split the next two sets leading to the decisive fifth, in which Penn fell behind early and was unable to hold on, losing15-9.
“Our defense was amazing at times but so was Princeton’s,” Carr said. “Our offense struggled at times, but we started off with a solid game plan and it did work.”
Saturday the Red and Blue hosted Delaware (7-10), a team that beat Penn last year in a tough four-set match. The Blue Hens took an early lead in the first set, forcing the Quakers to play catch-up. And although the Red and Blue did tie the set at 23, they dropped the next two points and lost.
This became a theme throughout the match as Penn fell behind in each of the sets, came surging back, but then ultimately lost.
“I don’t think we started pretty well defensively and in our passing, which are our strengths,” Carr said. “I knew coming after a tough, emotional, physical match [Friday] night, we may struggle with that.”
The Red and Blue have now lost three straight matches, but morale is still high. Both coach and players saw the matchup against Delaware as a final tune-up before heading into the main part of the Ivy season.
With that approach in mind, Carr tried a number of different things, one of which was to give more players an opportunity to see time on the floor — a decision that led to mixed results.
“It was an opportunity for us to really mix up the system a little bit and I thought we got a burst of energy from doing that,” Carr said. “It was short-lived at times, so you had to roll with that momentum and then put other people back in there.”
In both matches this weekend, the Quakers saw periods of strong play and great chemistry. However, there were also times when it seemed as if there was a lack of communication, resulting in defensive lapses and slow rotations.
Ultimately, the results may not necessarily have been what Carr was hoping for, but she is pleased with her team’s ability to get “experience under our belt.” Now, she is hoping that this experience can translate into greater success as the team heads into the Ivy season.
“A loss at the beginning of the season doesn’t mean anything,” Carr said. “When I saw us playing, putting it all together, it was amazing out there on Friday night and I’m excited about the prospects of doing that more often.”
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