In their last weekend before Ivy play, the Quakers further added to a season that doesn’t quite have an identity yet.
Going into the weekend with a 3-4 record after two straight five-set match victories, the Red and Blue (5-5) headed up the mainline to take part in the Villanova Tournament, going 2-1 in the process.
Things got off to a bumpy start as the Penn dropped the first two sets to lowly Norfolk State. One set loss away from what could be their most embarrassing defeat of the season, the Quakers roared back and took the next three sets against the Spartans (4-10).
“We were definitely a better team than Norfolk State, and we just started out way too slow,” coach Kerry Carr said. “With a young team, down a couple people, we’ll have moments like that. The good news is that we gained experience.”
With senior captain Dani Shepherd still out due to a concussion, sophomore Alexis Genske led the defense with 19 digs.
“She’s been great filling in for Dani in a totally new position,” Carr said.
Kristen Etterbeek led the team with 15 kills, while Alex Caldwell 27 assists and 6 kills of her own.
“[Etterbeek]’s always been our rock,” Carr said. “Sometimes being the only captain on the floor, she carries a lot on her shoulders. She’s the quintessential champ, and she made all-tournament, so that was good.”
The next day, the Quakers knew they’d have to come out firing on all cylinders, and that’s exactly what they did.
Sacred Heart proved an inferior opponent, as the Red and Blue won all three sets, 25-20, 25-15 and 28-26. It was the team’s first sweep of the season.
“Our goal for the weekend was to win a match in three sets,” Carr said. “We knew we had opportunities to do it with the weaker teams and we had to be able to put the gas pedal down all the way for three sets.”
Coming off of a thorough handling of Sacred Heart (6-6), the hope was that momentum could at least make the tournament-finale against Villanova interesting.
The Quakers raced out to a first set win, 25-21. With just two sets away from their first tournament win of the season, the Quakers were unable to capitalize, and dropped the next three sets to the Wildcats (8-5).
“It was a tough loss because we were in every set with Villanova, but what we gained from this weekend I really hope will help us in the future with our depth, even when we are back at full strength,” Carr said.
Carr summed up the circumstances surrounding the weekend, in which the team was missing some key players.
“We were a couple people down, we didn’t let it stop us, we were able to mix up the lineups and try new people in new line ups and see everyone play,” she said. “We found some really good people that I’m not sure would have gotten a chance otherwise.
At 5-5, there’s no clear picture of exactly where the Red and Blue are. The team has been hit with injuries and the loss of a captain in Emma White, and has had new players playing significant time. However, they feel their tough early season schedule will benefit them well as Ivy Play opens.
“I don’t think we’re starting fresh,” Carr said when asked if she’d preach a “fresh start” approach to her players. “We’ll play above .500. We’ve competed against a lot of tough teams, and now we’ll play people at our own level.
“I think we grew tons, and that’s what I asked them to do this preseason. It would have been nice to have a couple more wins over stronger teams but in the end it’s what comes next that’s important.”
What comes next is the start of Ivy season, kicking off Friday against rival Princeton.
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