Saint Joe’s will likely struggle to accomplish anything at the Big 5 Tournament this weekend, on account of not having a volleyball team, but Penn and the other three squads involved enter the round-robin affair with high hopes.
The Quakers will see some more local action this weekend, the final weekend before Ivy League play kicks off. Penn (3-5) will host La Salle (7-4) at the Palestra on Friday night before heading to the Explorers’ gym to face Villanova (7-3) and Temple (4-3) on Saturday.
Last year, Penn went 1-2 at the tournament, losing to Villanova at the Palestra before heading to Temple, where the Red and Blue lost to the Owls and topped La Salle.
“We really have settled down into a way to do it that’s fair for all four teams,” Penn coach Kerry Carr said of the mobile, multi-arena tournament. “It used to be in the Palestra every year, but everyone has nice arenas. We have to keep the Big 5 tradition of it being in the Palestra every year, but [we wondered] how do we make it so all four teams can have a home tournament?
“We came up with this: We’ll start in the Palestra every year on the Friday. And we’re going to rotate the Saturday among the three other schools. So last year it was Temple, and this year it’s La Salle, and next year it’ll be Villanova. It’s cool that everybody gets a turn to host.”
The Quakers are coming off of three wins in four games at last week’s Penn Invitational, a solid bounce back from the 0-4 trip to Houston that opened the season.
The Red and Blue were led by a phenomenal performance from freshman outside hitter Caroline Furrer, who had 20 kills in one match against George Mason on Saturday. But Carr thinks it could be the middle hitters who break out this time around.
“I would say our middles really started coming on in the last game [a win against Lafayette], and they just started clicking with our offense and blocking great. We have three middles in there that all hit 600 percent but all had a small number of kills. We’ll try to get them the ball more so we can see a larger volume of kills from those people.”
One middle to watch in particular is freshman Zoe Macartney, who leads the team with a .321 hitting percentage.
With a solid performance, the Red and Blue can get to or even above the .500 mark, but Carr isn’t setting any benchmarks heading into the weekend.
“With our young team, I’m not going to put any numbers on them. We’re just going to try to improve every game, because our endgame is how we’re going to finish in the Ivy League. And we’re going to do whatever we need to do to keep improving to get to that goal.”
And even if things go poorly on the scoreboard at the Big 5 Tournament — if Penn emerges from its preseason finale against Delaware on Tuesday with an ugly record — Carr will have no regrets.
“It’s not about making the schedule super easy, and then, you know, you’re undefeated, but what would that prepare you for? We challenged ourselves in this preseason. We know we have a challenging weekend ahead of us, all three teams have done very well.”
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