Up two sets against Brown this weekend, the Quakers had a victory in the bag.
But then they dropped the third set. And the fourth. And the fifth. Each by just two points.
The loss summed up Penn volleyball’s struggles in closing out games this season, which has resulted in the sixth-place position at which it currently sits in the Ivy League. However, the plethora of five-set matches the Quakers have played this season may be indicative of their true abilities.
“We’re in overtime with them, which means we’re at their level,” coach Kerry Carr said. “Last year, we had an uncanny ability to win those close ones and that’s what we’re working on a lot this week — how to win those two points under pressure.”
Pressure has been a large part of Penn’s 2011 campaign: In four of the six five-set matches the Quakers have played this season, they have dropped the deciding set by only two points — the smallest difference with which a set can be won.
Additionally, the Red and Blue have had some difficulty maintaining momentum, often due to mistakes made during crucial plays.
“I think one of the biggest things we’re working on right now is elevating our level of play in high-pressure situations,” senior captain Logan Johnson said. “When the game is on the line, we’re the team making the mistake, so we’re working on eliminating our errors and allowing the other team to make the mistakes.”
Because each match presents different scenarios, it has been difficult to pinpoint the exact causes of the team’s struggles in the fifth and deciding set.
Johnson was quick to say “age isn’t really an excuse” at this point in the season, but Carr believes that a combination of age and untimely injuries to starters Lauren Martin and Kristin Schoonover have played a large part in the team’s inconsistent play.
“Having a young team and having critical people out with injuries this year have had us not have a go-to plan in those situations,” Carr said. “We’re walking a fine line here with very young players that are growing and coming out of their shell, but we’re getting so much better.”
Carr and her squad have especially seen that improvement on the practice court.
According to Johnson, they are “trying to fix everything little by little.”
Carr asserts that while the record may not show it, the team is “improving by leaps and bounds.”
Thus, despite the team’s struggles through the first half of the Ivy season, the Quakers are looking forward to getting a second shot at their Ancient Eight foes and making sure that the wins and losses begin to reflect their improvements.
“Everyone’s having a really positive outlook on it and the way we can finish the season out,” Johnson said. “We’re really embracing the opportunity to play each of these teams again.”
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