Going into the weekend, Penn volleyball coach Kerry Carr wondered how her team would perform after a subpar week of practice.
The coach’s concerns were affirmed as the Quakers dropped two out of three matches in the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Penn Invitational at the Palestra.
“We did not have a good practice week last week,” Carr said. “We have to have a good practice week to play well. They were not focused last week, and it came back to haunt us.”
Penn (4-5) got out to a sluggish start Friday night against George Mason (2-11), needing four sets to dispatch their lowly opponent.
“We came out slow Friday, but we got out of it Saturday … Just because we lost doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing,” Carr said. “There were growing points from the weekend.”
After a night of rest and some adjustments from the coaching staff, the Quakers played better on Saturday but fell to Radford (8-7) in four sets, 24-26, 25-9, 22-25 and 17-25.
Hoping to bounce back against a highly touted Rutgers (14-1) squad, Penn won the first set of what was perhaps its best match of the tournament, 25-22. But the Quakers were unable to sustain their stellar play and fell the next three sets, 26-28, 19-25 and 16-25.
After the match, Carr reiterated the importance of practice to her team’s play.
“We really cannot waste a week of practice,” Carr said. “We’ll use things we did well this weekend, build on those and take care of what we should have taken care of this weekend.”
Dani Shephard anchored the defensive effort with 36 digs to bring her total to 97 on the weekend, enough to garner All-Tournament honors.
Penn also got valuable contributions from freshman Alex Caldwell, who notched a rare triple-double (13 kills, 11 digs, 10 assists) against Radford and made her presence felt throughout the weekend.
“She played really well Friday night,” Carr said. “The leadership of the junior and senior classes is really bringing the freshmen along. I just have to sneak them in [the game] and keep their confidence high.”
Freshmen have been shuffled in and out of the Quakers’ lineups all season and may see their roles increase with improved play.
“They [the freshmen] are contending for starting roles,” Carr said. “If they keep doing what they are doing in practice, they will either make someone better or take their spot. Starting lineups aren’t set if they keep improving.”
The Quakers have a midweek match against Delaware on Wednesday before beginning Ivy play Saturday against Princeton at the Palestra.