Penn volleyball will look to start this season off strong after a 2013 performance that can be best described as “up-and-down.”
Though the Quakers reeled off six straight wins in Ivy play, they still finished far beyond champion Yale, which looks as strong as ever. Stars like Dani Shepherd, the two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, have graduated. Clearly, the road ahead is tough.
The Quakers will also have to move forward in 2014 without one of their best players, sophomore Arielle Winfield, which makes the journey that much tougher.
A revelation at middle blocker as a freshman, Winfield has opted to leave the team in pursuit of a career as a jumper on the track and field squad.
“I really love both sports, but I definitely think that walking onto the track team is the better decision for me,” she said. “I can still be a high level student athlete but now I can do it in a more positive environment.”
When she first arrived on campus last season, Winfield was expected to be the centerpiece of a recruiting class assembled by coach Kerry Carr to dethrone the Bulldogs.
Carr inserted Winfield into the team’s starting lineup immediately in 2013. While it was an honor, it came with a caveat. As competitive as the team is, veterans were not about to surrender their court time to Winfield without a fight.
Despite the competition, Winfield showed plenty of potential in her initial campaign as she saw action in 61 sets over the course of 15 matches. In that time, Winfield accumulated 90 kills and 50 blocks.
These numbers, though, were limited due to minor injuries Winfield sustained throughout the season.
But injuries weren’t the only frustration that she had to deal with in 2013.
“When I first arrived here there was a bit of tension with my being a freshman that started immediately,” Winfield said. “We were all very competitive and all wanted the leadership role on the team, and coach was especially hard on me because she wanted me to step up and lead right away.”
After a certain point, Winfield had had enough.
“I ultimately quit because I no longer felt that being a part of this volleyball team was beneficial to me,” she said. “I was just unhappy and after trying to make it work with coach and the other girls, I decided to leave, to make myself happy.”
Losing Winfield gives the Quakers yet another hole to fill in their roster as the start of the season approaches. Outside hitter Rachel Baader was the only one of Winfield’s classmates to receive significant playing time in 2013, appearing in 59 sets over 18 matches in her own right.
Untested freshman Kendall Covington and junior Michellie McDonald-O’Brien could potentially receive some action alongside reliable seniors Taylor Smith and Kendall Turner.
No matter what direction Carr takes her lineup, it will be key to minimize the loss of Winfield lest her squad take a step back.