Coming off of a big comeback win against Princeton last weekend, the Penn volleyball team enters its weekend slate with a growing confidence after having won four of its last five matches.
Friday at the Palestra, the Quakers will host Harvard, while Dartmouth comes to town Saturday.
With the Crimson (8-11, 5-3 Ivy) and the Red and Blue (10-9, 5-3) tied for third place in the Ivy League, this weekend’s match carries great importance. There’s also a revenge factor, since Penn lost to Harvard earlier in the season.
In the second half of the season, the team is focusing on finishing its matches with the same strength they often start them with. When Penn first played Harvard, the Quakers dominated the first set and jumped out to a 2-1 lead, only to meet their demise in the fourth and fifth sets.
“Where we’ve had trouble in the past is finishing games and also fifth games,” junior Kristen Etterbeek said.
But this past weekend against Princeton, the team successfully recovered from an 0-2 hole to win the match.
“We’ve been really working on the mental part of our game, getting mentally tough, getting the last two points of a set, pushing extremely hard at the end of matches,” coach Kerry Carr said.
A significant change in practices has greatly helped the team perform better in games.
“More intensity, more aggression and more game like situations” have been the focus of practices, according to Etterbeek.
“Instead of training people we are training team mentality,” Carr added.
That team mentality is what the Quakers hope will put them on top this weekend.
“Harvard is a very strong offensive team,” Carr said. “Even if you kill them one set, they are going to come right back and play harder the next.”
Both Carr and Etterbeek agreed the match against Harvard will be completely different than the first time around, as they believe the team has grown by leaps and bounds in the past month.
The remainder of the season will consist solely of Ivy games, and with the Quakers sitting three matches behind first-place Yale, they’ll likely need to win out and get help to have a shot at the title.
“Every match from here on out is a must-win situation,” Carr said.
Less than 24 hours after the tilt with Harvard, Penn takes on Dartmouth (2-16, 1-7) for the second time. The Quakers swept the Big Green in straight sets in their first meeting in Hanover, N.H.