Unlike last year, Penn volleyball coach Kerry Carr has the veteran firepower needed to keep the team from being reliant on freshmen. But one rookie has forced her way onto the court regardless.
Outside hitter Courtney Quinn is one of just three Quakers to have played in all 49 sets this season. Quinn’s 70 kills are good for fifth on the team, as are her six service aces. The Woodlands, Texas, native also has the fourth-most digs with 97.
In the entire Ivy League, only four freshmen have more kills than Quinn, and only six have more aces. But Quinn is even better than her impressive stats suggest.
“The thing Courtney brings to the court that you might not see in the kill column [is that] she’s super smart with where she puts the ball,” Carr said. “She doesn’t make many mistakes. We actually track what happens to a ball when the [players] hit it — even if it doesn’t go in the kill column — and most of Courtney’s balls end up turning into points for us.”
Quinn is no stranger to success. She garnered several individual honors during her four years in high school, including Lonestar Prep Volleyball Texas Player of the Year in 2014, while also receiving recognition for her academic excellence.
However, the rookie might have to temper her expectations for team success at the collegiate level. Even this promising Red and Blue squad will have no chance of matching the dominance of Quinn’s high school team, which went 86-3 over her final two years en route to back-to-back state championships. In 2013, her squad was named the top high school unit in the country by MaxPreps.
But while Penn won’t ever be the No. 1 team in the country during Quinn’s tenure, her Ivy career is certainly off to a promising start. The Red and Blue won their league opener on Saturday, topping Princeton in four hard-fought sets on the road.
“It was really exciting because that was one of the more intense games, with a hostile crowd and a really good opponent,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t like you could ease into conference [play]. Right off the bat we had to get down to business.”
And while such an incredible level of high school excellence might require an adjustment when one reaches college, Carr pointed out that there are significant benefits that come with a background of on-court success.
“What you don’t have to do is teach those kids how to win. They know how to win,” Carr said. “How they won at her high school was on her arm. And that’s important for her to know, that she can lead a team in a tight game.
“She can win those last points for her team, and when you take someone who has won a championship game ... they’ve already figured out what a team needs to do to win, and they can bring that culture to this team. I think that’s something that she’s done.”
Quinn is a team-oriented player. Coming from a school program where she played with her two sisters and many of her close childhood friends, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable for her to need some time to adjust to her new teammates and surroundings. But the freshman is already comfortable with her fellow Quakers, something Carr attributes to the environment created by the team’s veterans.
“That’s one thing that this team has that’s so great: A culture of taking in the new kids and treating them like family right away,” Carr said.
She also noted that Quinn has certainly held up her own end of the bargain when it comes to the transition to collegiate competition.
“She’s extremely coachable. You tell her to do something, and she’ll try to do it immediately, even if it’s hard to do right away.”
Through the good and bad, Quinn relishes the intensity and the challenges of NCAA-level play.
“The competition is my favorite part,” she said. “You’re really playing for something — you want to win Ivy championships. In high school, our team had always won district championships every year, so it was just something you knew was gonna happen.
“But here it’s really like any team can win any game. It’s really point-for-point. You really have to bring your best every night, so that’s a really fun atmosphere to be playing in.”
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