It turns out a trip home was all Penn volleyball needed to jump-start its season.
The Quakers ended their five-game home stand with four consecutive wins, including a five-set win over Cornell on Friday and a three-set win against Columbia on Saturday. Penn (12-9, 6-4 Ivy) solidified its third-place standing in the Ivy League with four matches remaining in the season.
“Playing at home is everything, the Penn Band was amazing, all the other athletes that support one another,” coach Kerry Carr said. “It makes it feel like you can’t make a mistake, like the whole stands want you to win. I’ve never been so happy to be home than this year.”
Nearly a month after defeating Cornell (7-13, 3-7) in five sets in Ithaca, the Quakers found themselves in a similar back and forth affair. Once again, Penn prevailed, taking a five-set victory over the Big Red.
The Quakers traded the first four sets with Cornell as both teams seemed unable to sustain their momentum. Penn found a way to get hot at the right time though, dominating the fifth set with an incredible offensive display.
“We got to a new level of play tonight,” senior captain Kristen Etterbeek said. “We picked up our intensity, we picked up our fight, and we had a lot of individuals step up really aggressively.”
After an exhausting match Friday, the Quakers sprang back enthusiastically into the match against Columbia (5-14, 3-7), avenging their five-set loss earlier in the season.
The Red and Blue breezed through the first set, 25-16, behind an efficient offensive that produced 18 kills on a .382 hitting percentage, led by Etterbeek’s seven kills. Meanwhile, Columbia managed just 10 kills and a .079 hitting percentage in an error-plagued set.
The second set proved to be much closer, as the teams would exchange leads eight times, while tying the score 13 times. Penn came through when it mattered though, and won the set, 25-22, with a service ace by sophomore Alexis Genske.
The Lions attempted to claw their way back into the match during the third set, but fell short as the Quakers finished the sweep to close out their home stand.
“I felt like we played some of our best volleyball yet, everything I’ve seen in practice we put together for a solid match,” Carr said. “In that last set, where we had a dip, we learned how to manage our emotions and come back from that. In the first half of the season, we couldn’t get off the lows.”
Junior middle blocker Kendall Turner played a significant role in both victories, compiling 18 kills on a .548 hitting percentage, providing a spark for the Quakers when they needed it most.
“The first start was big for her, but she earned it on Friday. It’s also important to let the team know that you play hard in practice, you earn the start in the game [and if] you play hard in the game, you win the next start,” Carr said. “It says a lot to the team what hard work and perseverance can do, because she’s come into practice and given 110 percent every day.”
The Red and Blue also benefitted from the solid all-around play of sophomore setter Alex Caldwell, who finished the weekend with 16 kills, 61 assists and 28 digs over the course of two games.
The Quakers will travel to Dartmouth and Harvard next weekend, looking to continue their winning streak and remain undefeated in the second half of Ivy League play.
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