In more ways than one, it’s a new era for Penn volleyball.
Sure, it’s easy to point out the absences of five senior captains from 2015 — players that accounted for four of the team’s top five in kills, not including Ivy League assists leader Ronnie Bither.
But while the Quakers have certainly seen drastic personnel changes, coach Kerry Carr’s squad has also seen itself at the forefront of an ongoing transformation striking Ivy League athletics as a whole: increased television coverage.
Founded in 2013, the Ivy League Digital Network has exploded in popularity, announcing in August that it had created an application enabling users to access it on both Apple TV and Roku devices.
“It’s really important [to boosting fan interest]; there’s interest and appetite among our alumni worldwide, so this gives them access,” said Penn Senior Associate Athletic Director of External Affairs Roger Reina. “And for the ILDN Penn channel, there’s a series [“I Am Penn”] that is mostly personal stories on our student-athletes, which shows you more than the highlights and scores. … So to get their stories out really helps engage our alumni further.”
But even in a conference seeing increasingly thorough coverage across the board, Penn volleyball still has a step on the remainder of the Ancient Eight. This season, its broadcasts have incorporated an extra camera located on the net and a microphone attached to Carr.
“I think Coach Carr really is the impetus in all of this; she’s the one who reached out to me, so when a coach comes to you with that idea you have to make it happen,” Penn Sports Network Video Content Creator Ryan Koletty said. “We’re able to pick up very clear audio from the huddle, so that takes the viewer where no one else is allowed to go … and in terms of the net cam, it’s able to survive the volleyball hits, and that puts viewers in another spot that no one else can see.”
Still, adding extra entertainment for the ILDN viewers is far from the only benefit to the recent live-stream changes. Aided by the new camera, Penn volleyball instituted video replay challenges for its non-conference home matches in 2016.
In the challenge system, teams can use three challenges per match, and the reviewable plays include players making contact with the ball or net, balls landing in or out of bounds and service foot faults.
According to Coach Carr, Penn and New Hampshire are the only Division I teams in the northeast to have implemented the system in 2016.
“After [the Big 12 and Big 10] used it last year, everyone thought it was best for our game to have that review system,” Carr said. “And after using it three or four times this season, I wholeheartedly agree that it made the game better, because it allows you to get rid of that frustration of not getting a call right.”
Unfortunately, the remainder of the Ivy League did not give approval for the system to be utilized in conference games this season, but Carr expressed confidence that this wouldn’t be the case for long.
“Yeah, I think nationwide [the challenge system] is going to go everywhere — the only resistance might be from cost,” Carr said. “It’s just a matter of education; I didn’t know that much about it until the past year and I thought it was more complicated than it was, so it’s my job now to educate others.”
So as Carr’s squad leads its companions into the future of college sports coverage, it’s clear that both on the floor and on the web, the new age of Penn volleyball is only getting started.
“We’re so fortunate because Penn puts a lot of energy, money and time into being one of the best video programs anywhere,” Carr said. “I think a lot of people have to catch up to us because we’re at the highest level of production, and that’s really exciting for Penn volleyball.”
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