In recent years, Ivy League volleyball has trended toward two stratifications: the four teams at the top and the four at the bottom. This weekend, Penn solidified its status among the top tier.
Following a five-set defeat against Princeton last weekend, the Quakers swept their first full Ivy weekend, edging past Dartmouth in five sets before downing Harvard in four.
The win over the Big Green (6-7, 0-3 Ivy) was the first five-set contest to go Penn’s way on the year, and sophomore outside hitter Courtney Quinn’s 16 kills led the Red and Blue (7-8, 2-1) offensively. Quinn added 13 digs for a double-double, but it was setter Sydney Morton who put the Ancient Eight on notice.
Against Dartmouth, the junior captain finished just a few kills short of a triple-double, logging six kills, 38 assists and 12 digs. She kept it going against the Crimson (3-9, 1-2), once again just missing a triple-double with a 6-45-11 performance.
“She’s always been effective, but she’ll dump once or twice and then forget to go back to it,” Penn coach Kerry Carr said. “So it was about her really stepping up and saying, ‘You are an attacker in a 5-1, so if you’re not going to attack, I’ll put another hitter in and run a 6-2,’ and she’s like, ‘Nope, I don’t wanna leave the floor.’”
Through three sets on Friday, the Quakers and Big Green traded blows. Dartmouth took the first set, 25-18, and Penn responded with a 25-20 set win. With a 25-22 victory in the third frame, the Red and Blue were on the verge of falling to 0-2 to start conference play.
They were having none of that. Carr’s squad blew past Dartmouth for a 25-13 win in the fourth set and, after getting to a 10-10 tie in the fifth, rattled off four straight points before sealing the deal, 15-11.
“It felt so amazing because it just shows how mentally tough we are,” Morton said. “Five sets — that’s a lot of playing, that’s two and a half, three hours of volleyball — and we were just focused and intense the whole entire time. And at the end, everyone was hugging — it was like we won the Super Bowl.”
With momentum in hand and defending Ivy champion Harvard on tap, the Quakers returned to the Palestra on Saturday. Against the Crimson, who were playing in the face of both injuries and substantial graduations in May, Penn worked quickly.
In the first set, junior captain Kendall Covington paced the Quakers with six kills on seven attempts as her team went ahead, 25-18. Harvard took the second set, but Penn responded with 25-16 and 25-21 victories and its first weekend sweep of the year.
With the win, the Red and Blue took down the Crimson for the first time since 2014 and swept their second straight full Ivy weekend, dating back to the end of last year.
The Quakers are also now in a strong position relative to the conference, currently tied for third place.
“Even though I’ve seen a roller coaster ride, our dips are a lot less length of time, and our highs are a lot higher,” Carr said. “And that’s what we’ve been working on.”
Regardless of the team at the top, right now, the Quakers now rank amongst the league’s best.
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