Penn volleyball freshmen enter at different levels
Although the team brings back solid upperclassmen, the freshmen have the chance to make an impact
September 3, 2013, 6:42 pm · Updated September 3, 2013, 8:23 pm·
Amiya Chopra | DP
When Penn volleyball steps onto the court this Saturday, there will be a few new faces to take note of.
The Quakers have a solid group of freshmen joining the squad, with Rachel Baader joining the Red and Blue as an outside hitter while Arielle Winfield and Lexi Slotkoff enter the year as middle blockers.
And with those new players added, coach Kerry Carr isn’t quite sure how the lineup is going to look this year.
“There are some knowns already and some unknowns,” Carr said. “The great news about that is we will be three or four people deep in some of the unknown areas.”
With one of the outside hitter and middle blocker positions open, the freshmen will have the opportunity to step into key roles early on in the year.
But Carr is making it clear that it won’t be easy for them to get a spot.
“It is the hardest thing to do to come in and compete for a starting spot in a fall sport.” she said. “If [the freshmen] had a chance to get into their classes and into volleyball shape, there is no doubt they would be competing 100 percent for their positions right away.
“I think Lexi and Rachel are a little bit behind others, and Arielle is surprisingly one of the top candidates for middle blocking position next to [Susan Stuecheli.]”
The second middle block position is open with the absence of Emma White, and Winfield has familiarity with the position, having played it since middle school.
But while Winfield — whose brother, Dave Jr., is a freshman on the men’s basketball team — is in contention for a job right away, the other newcomers are still in the process of adjusting to the college game.
“It has definitely been difficult [early on] but in a good way,” Slotkoff said. “It is a lot of picking up to the speed of the game. You have to block faster, transition faster, so it has definitely been a lot about speed.”
“With our club teams [in high school], we were really good and you come here, and everyone is good. You have to play your best all the time,” Baader added.
Yet despite being in the middle of a transition to college, volleyball’s newcomers are feeling accepted early on.
“I think the team has been great. Everyone gets along with everyone,” Slotkoff said. “At the end of the day, I know I’m a freshman since we put away the ice buckets and get water, but [we] don’t feel inferior when we talk to our teammates.”
“When I first came here, I was really intimidated,” Winfield said. “But the girls were really great at communicating with us and telling us what we had to do. We have great team chemistry, and I love it.”
While the freshmen have been doing their best to get acclimated to both collegiate volleyball and life at Penn, they were interrupted by NSO, as Carr gave them the time off with events interfering with practice.
“They had so much to do with NSO that I didn’t want to have them also run 6 a.m. practices or 10 at night practices,” Carr said. “We were killing them, so I just had them miss some practices or cancelled practice.
“It’s not like we can have a practice without the freshmen. They are a part of our team now, and there is a huge hole without them.”
With the freshmen ingrained within the team, the freshmen – especially Winfield – are also firmly set on helping the team towards its long term goals.
“With individual goals, I would like to be starter. That would be my absolute dream, Winfield said. “As for a team goal, we will win the Ivy League.”
So when Winfield, Slotkoff and Baader all step onto the court for the first time, they will be stepping with their teammates toward the same goal: the elusive Ivy title.