Penn volleyball came out of the weekend a different team than it was when it began.
The timid, disconnected Quakers who laced up against Columbia in a 3-0 loss (25-12, 25-22, 25-13) transformed into a dynamic team overnight. They split the weekend with a 3-1 win over Cornell (25-19, 25-18, 22-25, 25-23).
The Red and Blue (4-10, 1-2 Ivy) faced off with the Lions on Friday night. In a performance characterized by extremes , Penn had moments of greatness without the consistency necessary to threaten a solid Columbia team.
The Lions (6-6, 2-1) led for the entirety of both the first and third sets. Junior outside hitter and captain Alexis Genske put on a strong showing for the Quakers with 10 kills.
“We have a chip on our shoulder now. We’re ready to change things,” Genske said after the disappointing match. “Our goal is to come out strong and hit the ground running.”
Penn did exactly that to open its contest against the Big Red (3-10, 0-3).
The Red and Blue’s first conference win of the season was energetic, inspired and characteriz ed by a mental resilience coach Kerry Carr had been waiting for all season.
“Not only is it the win that’s important, but ... it was good to see them have the co nfidence to fight back,” she said. “That was the difference between the win and the loss.”
Penn started off strong in the opening set and then went into cruise control, taking the set 25-19.
“The execution and listening to the game plan Coach brought out for us made all the difference,” freshman middle blocker Kendall Covington said .
A large part of Penn’s game plan hinged on freshman libero Emmy Friedler, who finished with 19 digs.
“Emmy stepped up her game to a whole new level,” Carr gushed. “It’s what I know she is capable of and to see her gain that confidence tonight was great.”
In what started out as a much closer second set, the Red and Blue went back and forth with Cornell, but the Quakers finished strong to take the set, 25-18.
The third set showed a much scrappier Cornell team. The Quakers and the Big Red traded points until a 14-11 lead for Cornell — the biggest lead of the set at that point — forced a Penn timeout.
Penn would fight back, but the Big Red would hold on to force a fourth set.
With the memory of last night’s collapse against Columbia following a close-set loss fueling the Red and Blue as a “chip on [their] shoulder,” Penn looked as strong as ever, systematically outscoring Cornell, 16-9, to open the fourth set.
Despite opening up a lead in the fourth set, Penn could not seem to finish off Cornell. The Big Red took their first lead of the set at 23-22.
This, however, set up a classic comeback that could well turn out to be a turning point in Penn’s Ivy League season.
A powerful kill from junior setter Alex Caldwell put the Quakers ahead 24-23 following a crucial Cornell service error.
Junior setter Ronnie Bither pushed Genske, Turner and Caldwell to execute the offensive onslaught Penn fans have been waiting for. After a long rally that involved all three hitters, Penn outlasted Cornell and earned its first conference win in dramatic fashion.
Much of the team’s resolve over the weekend can be traced back to Kendall Turner.
“She’s a senior. She’s a leader on this team,” Carr said . “I ask a lot of her — she’s the one player that I can always ask to give more.”
The Quakers hope to carry their energy and success into next weekend’s Dig Pink! matches against Yale and Brown.
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