Playtime is over for Penn volleyball.
Looking to get redemption for their first sub-.500 Ivy League season since 2011, the Quakers will open the 2015 conference slate on the big stage, heading to Princeton’s infamous Jadwin Gym to take on the rival Tigers in a Friday night showdown.
“We really like opening with Princeton, because we’re always really motivated to come in on a strong start,” said senior outside hitter and captain Alexis Genske, who currently leads the team with 122 kills on the season. “I enjoy playing away and I think the team does too. It’s a fun gym to play in, and we’re definitely excited coming into this weekend.”
Although the Red and Blue enter Ancient Eight play with a pedestrian 5-6 record, the team’s mark is two games better than its 3-8 non-conference performance from the 2014 season. Beyond their improved record, the Quakers have also faced a strong schedule, one that has players and coaches feeling adequately prepared for the grinding Ivy tests ahead.
“We played some really good teams closely,” Genske said. “I think [a four-set loss against] Towson and [a five-set loss to] Maryland were some of our best games even though neither of them went our way. In every loss, we’ve grown and fixed things, so I think we’re coming into Ivies in a really strong position.”
“The preseason is a time to try out different lineups and get some experience for the depth of our team,” coach Kerry Carr added. “Some of the teams we played had a lot of transfers and international players, and some ended up being a lot stronger than what we’ll see in the Ivy League.”
However, the Tigers (5-4) — who own a four-game winning streak and the best overall record in the Ivy League — will by no means represent a downgrade in competition.
Princeton returns all but one starter from a squad that swept the Red and Blue in 2014, including senior outside hitter Kendall Peterkin, a two-time first team All-Ivy selection who set a career-high with 30 kills the last time these foes met in Jadwin Gym.
“Going into Princeton, who I think is a top contender in the league this year ... it’ll be a really good test for us,” Carr said. “[But] I think we match really well against them.”
In addition to its plethora of returning talent, the Tigers found a gem in 6-foot-3 freshman middle blocker Nnenna Ibe, who leads the Ancient Eight with a hitting percentage of .391.
But the Red and Blue have their own rising star to match. 2014 Volleyball Magazine All-American and outside hitter Courtney Quinn has emerged as a key contributor for Penn and currently ranks fourth on the team in kills with 60 and third with 86 digs. Despite her relative inexperience, she expressed no fear of the hostile road environment she will face for the first time.
“So far, I’ve handled the pressure pretty well,” the rookie said. “I’ve heard their fans are very loud, very in your face, [but] I really like big environments. I come from a high school that has 5,000 kids, so it’s kind of something I’ve been used to.”
With a hectic crowd expected, a Penn team hungry for revenge and a 1-0 start to Ivy play at stake, fans and players should expect another epic battle between these long-time rivals.
“It’s going to go to the wire, every set is going to be a battle and it’s the team that’s the most poised, most confident and most mature that is going to be able to come through. It’s always fun to play Princeton,” Carr said, before making a slight adjustment. “Let me rephrase that: It’s always fun to beat Princeton.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.