Teams often hope for intense competition at the end of their preseason schedules to prepare themselves for the regular season. The Quakers certainly got what they wanted.
Penn volleyball hit the road to nearby Delaware and beat the Blue Hens in four hard-fought sets to finish off the preseason and head into Saturday’s Ivy opener against Princeton with positive momentum.
Penn (5-7) got off to a good start, taking each of the first two sets, 25-20.
“Our passing was right on target, and our serving was really tough,” coach Kerry Carr said of the fast start. “They went to work on Monday in practice at a couple things that weren’t clicking, and they really just turned things around, and it was really fun to see, once we got our passing figured out, to see our offense roll really strong.”
But the Blue Hens (6-7) refused to go away. An extremely tough third set saw very little separation between the two teams throughout, and at 23-23, a pair of Delaware kills sent the match to a fourth set.
Back in the match, Delaware came out strong in the fourth set, and at 24-21, the Blue Hens were one point away from sending it to a fifth and deciding set.
“Delaware started playing really well,” Carr said. “And we had a little bit of a panic, and we had to calm down and have confidence to just push through it, and mix things up and not be predictable.”
And the Quakers certainly did push through. Penn won the next three points to tie it at 24, and eventually took the set 27-25 to win the match.
“We had some pretty incredible digs,” the coach reflected. “I think our defense really was the reason we won at that point. Our offense started out strong and our defense finished it out.”
The Quakers got a huge game from setter Sydney Morton, who hit .529 for nine kills while notching 48 assists and 10 digs, just missing out on a triple-double.
“She had extreme confidence,” Carr said in praise of the junior captain. “She worked really hard at practice on Monday on coming up with a bunch of solutions for serve-receive, so she went into the game super confident that we weren’t going to get stuck in a rotation, because she had gone over a lot of play-sets.”
Penn also got double-digit kills from juniors Kendall Covington and Hayley Molnar (10 each), sophomore Courtney Quinn (14, to go with a career-high 23 digs) and freshman Caroline Furrer (13).
For an extremely young Penn team, the close, back-and-forth contest provides crucial experience to go along with the confidence that comes from a win.
“We couldn’t have scripted it any better than this,” Carr said of the nail-biting victory that gave the Red and Blue five wins in eight games. “We’re finally coming into our own and playing the kind of ball we want to be playing right before Princeton.”
All in all, the Quakers did well to finish the non-conference season 5-7 despite a tough and dense schedule. But you can throw that record out the window now. What matters is the team’s record from here on out, starting this weekend at home against their biggest rival, the Tigers.
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