It is a long way to the finish line.
Matched up against bigger teams already with more game experience, the Penn women’s volleyball team managed to demonstrate plenty of reasons for optimism surrounding its upcoming campaign.
Though the Quakers (0-3) dropped all three of its matches at the University of Maryland Invitational this weekend, several spurts of strong play from both the overall team, as well as on an individual level, helped the team hold its own.
Coming into the Invitational, the Red and Blue knew they were behind schedule compared to their opposition. The team’s three opponents had already played 10 combined games over the past week while the Quakers had yet to make their season debut.
“Every year we play here, we’re at a disadvantage because the other teams have already started playing games,” coach Kerry Carr said. “But this isn’t what we’re playing for; we’re playing for the Ivy League championship.
“So even though we’re playing more seasoned teams, they are just making us faster and stronger moving forward.”
Penn kicked off its season on Friday night against LIU. In a back and forth match where neither team could take complete control, the Quakers were resilient and would not relent.
Though Penn led early in the first set, the Blackhawks (2-4) mounted a comeback, capturing the first set, 25-20.
Nevertheless, just as they did all night, the Red and Blue fought back. Penn utilized an aggressive offensive game plan to capture the second and third set.
“We got blocked and we kept fighting, and I really loved that mentality,” Carr said.
Nevertheless, the Blackhawks’ talent level and experience were the difference in the game, as LIU won the final two sets by a combined score of 40-25.
“Their blockers were bigger on the other side of the net and they had a faster offense than what we see in the Ivy League,” Carr said.
Looking to rebound on Saturday, the Red and Blue got off to a hot start against UMKC and captured the first set. The momentum quickly escaped them, however, and the Kangaroos (3-4) swept the next three sets and take the game.
Sophomore Jasmine DeSilva led the team with 17 kills against UMKC, while sophomore Alex Caldwell added 14. Senior Dani Shepherd, who ended up being named to the Invitational’s All-Tournament team, had 33 digs in the game.
“Jasmine DeSilva was a role player for us last year and she was outstanding this weekend,” Carr said. “She was very consistent from game to game, and I think she was someone who was right there athletically with every team we faced.”
After an early morning game, the Red and Blue had a few hours to rest before their final game, a nightcap against tournament host Maryland.
Like their previous game, the Quakers nabbed a victory in one set, but were ultimately overmatched by the Terps (5-1).
Caldwell contributed 18 assists, while Shepherd added another 20 digs to lead the team, who finished the weekend with 75.
Looking forward, Carr is encouraged by what she saw this weekend, but recognizes that there is plenty of room for improvement.
“I’d like to see more of what we did right in our upcoming matches,” Carr said. “I think that if we leave a few errors out of our play and keep playing at that aggressive level, the ‘W’s are going to start rolling in.
“I’m not sure where the other Ivy League teams stand right now, I only know where we stand, and I can definitely say that we’re already in a better place than last year.”
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