For a team two games under .500, Penn volleyball sure is enthusiastic.
The Palestra was just as loud during Wednesday night’s practice as it has been all season, even after another head-scratching weekend for the Quakers. Their bizarre journey to New York consisted of a loss to Ivy punching bag Cornell followed by a victory over Columbia, who had embarrassed the Quakers (7-14, 4-6 Ivy) at home only weeks ago.
“I want to give props to Cornell; they’re a stronger team [than last time],” coach Kerry Carr said. “I saw that on tape … [Ithaca] is not the most pleasant place to play for us. I think it was totally my fault that I did not recognize that the energy was not where we needed it to be.”
They found that energy the next day, when they funneled that negative emotion into, as Carr described it, “one of the best matches we had.”
As Penn returns to Philadelphia for the last home games of the season, the window for riding that momentum is small. With Ivy title hopes all but erased, Penn will look to make a statement this weekend against familiar faces Dartmouth (13-8, 4-6) and Harvard (15-4, 8-2).
“I think we’re going to take it point by point this weekend, and we’re going to stay super focused,” senior captain Trina Ohms said. “The less we think big picture … the better outcome we can probably have.”
The Red and Blue experienced their most successful road trip of the season last time they played the pair. Though surrendering a 2-0 set lead to the Crimson to lose 3-2, Penn still showed flashes of early-set success, which has been the “bane” of their year. The other bane of the game — Harvard’s Corinne Bain — played her way to a triple-double against the Quakers.
“Harvard’s gotten stronger,” Carr said. “We look where they got us, we adjust our defense, we look at what we did well and we put that offense out there more often.”
Those adjustments happened quickly during that road trip, as the Quakers came back the next day and handled the Big Green in four sets. Junior rightside Alex Caldwell posted a triple-double of her own, and the Quakers dominated the blocking game.
The Quakers will need to compliment their high levels of emotion with these on-court adjustments if they hope to play spoiler to the New England Ivies. Bain is averaging nine kills per match for Harvard since playing Penn, a stark decrease from her formerly-Ivy leading rate. On the other hand, Dartmouth’s Emily Astarita has climbed the offensive rankings, landing as the third-highest scorer in the Ancient Eight.
Regardless of what happens on the court, this weekend will be a heavy one for the Quakers, who say goodbye to four seniors during Senior Week. As Ohms, fellow captain Meghan Connolly, Kendall Turner and Taylor Smith part ways with Penn, their coach is especially grateful for their impact.
“Their contributions to the team will be felt forever,” Carr said. “I hate to compare it to other leaders, but they’re probably the best I’ve seen.”
“It’s been a crazy ride,” Ohms said. " I’ve loved every second of it.”
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