vballcenterpiece

Penn volleyball's bench consistently cheers on the players on the court with positive energy and fun chants.

Photo: Ilana Wurman

As the old adage goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” The exception to this rule, however, may be the Penn volleyball bench; its words are pretty darn loud.

The team’s reputation has certainly been earned. The Quakers have been so energetic and frenetic on the sidelines this year that, despite trailing during a match, some spectators have been convinced that Penn was actually on top.

This is certainly the objective of the players on the bench — to find a way to make a difference even without directly being on the court. Coach Kerry Carr emphasized the importance of the team’s vocal support during competition.

“When you have a large roster, everyone has to know what their part is in helping us win,” Carr said. “I believe that every single person is important from one to twenty-four. But in order to show that when they are not on the court, they have to find another way to be heard, be seen and make an impact.

“Their energy has to get out there somehow, and their voice is the best way.”

Aside from the enthusiasm and positivity generated from the vociferous cheers, the team utilizes the bench to help identify weaknesses in the opposition’s defense and recognize patterns in successful points.

According to senior rightside hitter Alex Caldwell, “we can always hear the bench when we are on the floor, and people are constantly communicating information between each other.”

Not all shouts from the bench are of a tactical nature. Plenty of the cheers are rife with fun and pep, others laced with gratitude. Senior setter Ronnie Bither — who believes Penn rivals all Ivy League teams and perhaps even all squads nationwide in sheer volume — shared her favorite cheer, and it is a certainly distinctive one.

“I like when we get an ace, and we actually cheer for one of our coaches, Seth [Rochlin], because he calls out our serving signals. So we go, ‘Let’s cheer for Seth: one, two, three — Seth!’” Bither said. “It always makes me laugh.”

Both Caldwell and Bither, as seniors on the team, have played the vast majority of sets this season and certainly appreciate the gushing energy they receive from the bench, especially during tough spots when a single point could turn the tide.

However, with only six players allowed on the court at any given time, the burden rests on all the substitutes to find a way to engage with the action. While sophomore setter Sydney Morton has come in for 16 sets out of the Red and Blue’s 55 thus far in 2015, some of which have been in crucial game situations, she describes the importance of being equally involved when not directly in the game.

“We definitely just cheer the whole entire time, just bringing positive energy,” Morton said. “It translates to the court from the bench, and it helps out the court players so much.”

Explaining her expectations for the bench players, Carr highlighted the significance of perpetual team unity.

“It’s all one team, so if you’re not into it, you are affecting our performance, whether you’re on the floor or bench,” Carr said. “I’ve always felt that it’s a huge part of our team, but this year the bench has taken on a personality of its own.

“They make up all the cheers. I don’t tell them what to cheer or do, I just say ‘Be involved, be a part of this team as if a win or loss depended on what you’re doing.’”

Because creating all of the excitement and camaraderie from the bench is in their hands, Morton clarified the process the team conducts of preserving the old cheers and generating original chants.

“We have all the cheers already, though sometimes we come up with new cheers, but mostly they’ve been passed down from year to year,” she said. “We have a couple ones this year that we came up with and are using that should stick around for a while.”

So, despite how the score reads, or how many people are in the stands, Penn volleyball will always be crafting a boisterous atmosphere from the sidelines, in the hopes of giving the Quakers a winning edge.

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