Penn couldn’t have asked for a better tuneup for the start of Ivy play on Saturday.
Down two games to none on Wednesday night, it appeared that the volleyball team was heading into the weekend on a three-game slide.
Suddenly, fueled by junior Dani Shephard’s career night (46 digs), the Red and Blue stormed back to take the next three games, 25-21, 26-24, 15-13.
It was the first time in nearly three years that the Quakers (5-5) dug themselves out of an 0-2 hole, and the first time this season a match went to five sets.
“We just had the will to win,” freshmen Alex Caldwell said. “Every single point we were fighting, like it was the last time we were going to play volleyball. We just all really wanted it and put our heart and soul into every point.”
Going into the Ancient Eight slate with their preseason record a draw, the Red and Blue know they must now make progressive steps forward from here on out.
“As a coach, I always feel like we could use a few more weeks of practice … But they’ve been great at practice,” Carr said. “They came ready to play this week. I’ve had their full attention for all the full week and I think it’ll benefit us going into the weekend.”
The Quakers open their Ivy schedule against rival Princeton, which is 3-7 on the season and coming off back-to-back losses.
Four of the Tigers’ season losses came in five-game sets, so it will be critical that Penn not only comes out stronger from the start, but also sustains energy throughout the matches.
“We’re ready to test ourselves,” Carr said. “Part of playing in the Ivy League is half mental and physical readiness. You have to mentally be prepared to go into battle.
“[Princeton is] good. And we’re good. And they can be bad, and so can we.”
Princeton is led by All-Ivy outside hitter Lydia Rudnick, and two underclassmen that are currently near the top of the Ivy League in kills and assists, Kendall Peterkin and Ginny Willis, respectively.
They will be countered on the other side of the net by the Quakers’ constant core of Shephard, junior Kristen Etterbeek, senior Lauren Martin and freshman Ronnie Bither.
Another freshman who has immediately contributed to the Quakers this season, but flown relatively under the radar, is Caldwell.
She has finished with two triple-doubles in the team’s last three matches, and had a team-high 15 kills against Delaware.
“It’s exciting being a freshmen and contributing to the team,” Caldwell said. “A lot of our practices are focused on certain things, and I’ve just been trying to apply it to game situations.”
Against the always-tough Princeton, Caldwell will be depended upon to keep up her high level of play.
“Princeton comes to play,” Carr said. “I’m not reading anything into their record, and I know we’ll have to play our best to beat them, but I know we can beat them.”
Tip off is 5 p.m. at the Palestra on Saturday.