Penn volleyball came into the final day of the Big Five Tournament — and nonconference play — with a six-game losing streak hanging over its head.
Coach Kerry Carr’s squad got that monkey off its back, but Penn was unable to pull off a sweep, earning a four-set win victory over La Salle before suffering a 25-14, 25-23, 25-17 defeat to Temple on Saturday night at the Palestra.
La Salle (6-10) got off to a blazing start in the first set of the first game, and it looked like the Quakers (3-7) might be headed to their seventh straight loss. The Explorers had an early lead of 11-2 but the Red and Blue came roaring back.
"[The adjustment] wasn’t strategic, it was more like a mental settling down,” Carr said after the game. “Focusing more on the pass, set and serve rather than on the outcome of just hitting the ball.
“So the adjustment was made more in our minds than anything else.”
However, despite adjusting to La Salle’s attack, the Quakers faced triple-set point.
Penn saved all three, thanks to a service error from La Salle and kills from senior middle blocker Kendall Turner and freshman outside hitter Aimee Stephenson. The Quakers took the next two points to wrap up the set, with junior setter Alex Caldwell setting up Stephenson for the clinching kill.
La Salle bounced back, taking a hard-fought second set that was never separated by more than four points. The third set was another nail-biter, featuring 10 ties and three lead changes.
After the Explorers repelled a few set points, Turner — who was named to the All-Tournament team — broke a tie for Penn with one of her 10 kills.
“She’s waited a long time to get here,” Carr said of Turner. “She’s a very patient, hard-working person, so I’m glad to see it when it really comes out during game time, what I know she’s capable of, and hopefully she takes that confidence into the Ivy League.”
After Penn won the next point to take a two-sets-to-one advantage, they came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth set, jumping out to a 11-3 lead that they rode to a 25-10 win.
After having a few hours to enjoy their victory, the Quakers headed into their matchup with Temple, looking to start a more positive kind of streak.
However, the Owls (9-3) were having none of it. Temple dominated the first set of the match, turning the Quakers aside, 25-14.
“We were not passing well, we were not communicating, we were not serving tough,” Carr said of the first set. “That had been our strategic plan, and [we]just didn’t adopt it until set two.”
The second set was much closer, with neither team able to string together any runs. However, Temple took the close set and went on a couple runs to finish off Penn in straight sets.
Junior Alexis Genske finished with 14 kills to pace the Quakers in the final match, and Stephenson was next with 10.
After ending their losing streak and going through 10 nonconference matches, the real games begin as Penn gets ready for some Ivy action.
“We are focusing on what we did really well,” Turner said. “We had a lot of really good moments this weekend and we’re trying to take some of that into the Ivy season.”
The Quakers will kick off their Ivy League slate against Princeton on Friday at the Palestra.
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