Every fall, a new batch of wide-eyed freshmen storms the campus to start their college careers.
For Penn volleyball, the case is no different. Out of 20 total players on the Quakers’ roster, more than one-third of the team — eight players to be exact — is comprised of members of the class of 2019.
After an up and down 2014 campaign highlighted by numerous growing pains for a roster defined, even then, largely by youth, the Red and Blue will once again be tasked with the challenge of getting a relatively inexperienced squad ready for the rigors of college volleyball.
The Penn freshmen will have to deal with juggling their first college classes on top of the demands of a collegiate-level sport. While the time commitment is invariably an arduous task, a handful of rookies feel that their experiences tackling high school athletics were actually quite similar.
Brigit McDermott, Kynnedie Maloz and Grace James were all dual-sport athletes in high school. As a result, their schedules before coming to Penn mirror what they’re currently going through.
“The two sports [in high school] is probably equal to one sport [at Penn],” Maloz said. “I’m used to the long hours at this point.”
The Red and Blue’s freshman class also brings an extensive championship pedigree along with it. On top of multitudes of individual accolades, Brooke Behrbaum, Courtney Quinn, Nicole Profit and Maloz each won state championships for their respective teams during their high school careers.
Losing is somewhat of a foreign concept to this incoming class of recruits. But coming onto a team fresh off its first losing season since 2011, it’s not hard to foresee early growing pains testing the young core’s patience. Over the weekend, these growing pains were made apparent in two opening losses, but the team also sparked optimism by showing its offensive potential.
“Winning [a state championship in high school] was a surreal experience,” Quinn added. “I think it would be an incredible moment if we were able to win [the Ivy League championship] while we’re here.”
Some freshmen on the team became familiar with each other before committing to play for the Quakers. For example, Profit and Julia Tulloh, both of whom grew up in Maryland, played against one another frequently on the club volleyball circuit.
“There are a lot of girls on the team from the area already,” Tulloh noted. “I think it’s good having people from your hometown there for you.”
Profit comes from a long line of athletes in her family. Her father, Eugene, was an All-American long jumper as well as football player for Yale. A few years ago, her sister played volleyball for Maryland — the team that defeated the Quakers in their opener in five sets this past weekend.
While she couldn’t provide any intel on Penn’s opening opponent, Profit admitted that there was plenty of familial teasing exchanged in anticipation of the matchup.
The Quakers’ freshmen are accustomed to their fair share of leadership roles, as a majority of them served as captains on their teams in high school. Now, playing for a team laden with underclassmen, having multiple leaders ready and willing to step up to the challenge of guiding the squad forward will be key to helping it improve.
“Everyone has their own strengths,” freshman middle blocker Taylor Cooper said. “We’re trying to figure out what those are so we can become the most cohesive unit possible.”
Now, with the season already four games old, if Penn wants to avoid its second consecutive losing season and inch closer to its first Ivy League title since 2010, the youngest players on the team might just hold the key to the team’s success.
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