With such a large team, Penn volleyball coach Kerry Carr made clear from day one that she does not guarantee time on the court, but can guarantee time on the bench.
Carr has a team whose strength comes from each player’s ability to come into the game at any moment, a skill that is necessary with such a deep roster of 23 girls. This is why sophomore Julia Tulloh and freshmen Ariana Wiltjer and Zoe Macartney’s “team-first” mentality and fierce work ethic are so critical to their individual and collective success as a team.
“Julia, Ariana and Zoe are three girls who epitomize what the whole chemistry of the team is like,” Carr said.
After coming in as a walk-on her freshman year, Tulloh’s incredible work ethic and positive attitude made her a unique asset to the team from day one. Her own enthusiasm — potentially electric — contributes to what she considers the team’s ultimate strength.
“Everyone is always ready to go in, and everyone’s confident that whoever goes in off the bench with make a difference and change the energy on the court,” the sophomore said.
“What’s so special about Julia is that she finds her way onto the court and contributes,” Carr added. “It was fun to see her develop a serve that was an ace serve that we needed at times.”
Tulloh said her goals for the season include continuing to push her teammates in practice, improving her serve and to play strong defense to make her teammates better. She emphasized that, coming off of two losses against Columbia and Cornell, the team “needs to let go of [its] frustrations.”
“Both Columbia and Cornell were close games,” Tulloh explained. “We just need to finish when we have the chance.”
Standing at 6-foot-5, with a powerful swing and a knack for blocking shots, Wiltjer is also a force to be reckoned with.
Wiltjer, like Macartney, is not a starter; she provides steadfast support of her teammates while on the bench. She emphasized that having such a large team helps her mentally prepare for games.
“The energy in the locker room is so electric that by the time we step onto the court we are so hyped. We are all warm and ready to go,” Wiltjer said.
Putting the team before one’s self is a universal philosophy for this team. Particularly with a team as large as Penn’s, it’s almost difficult for singular figures to stand too far out.
“On the court during practice, we all hold each other accountable, watching and helping each other out,” Wiltjer said. “Although there is competition for spots on our team, we all support and encourage each other no matter what.”
Wiltjer’s personal goals mainly consist of getting healthy and strong, having come off of three concussions, the most recent of which was in November 2015. With a matchup against 11-3 Yale looming, she and her teammates continue to push each other in practice.
“If the intensity isn’t there we tell each other that we need to step it up and increase the energy on the court,” Wiltjer said. “We’re all stepping it up for this weekend because we all know that every match is important, and every practice is an opportunity to get better.”
Macartney, the second tallest girl on the team next to Wiltjer at 6-foot-3, is also no small force both on the bench and on the court. However, despite her individual skills and stature, the team always comes first for Macartney. One of her favorite parts of their bench is their unique cheer squad called “The Bobs.”
“I love them honestly,” Macartney said. “They are always cheering. We have cheers for each person, and three different calls that the refs make. When I’m on the court, and if I get a point and I hear my cheer, I know my team has my back.“
Throughout the season, Macartney personally wants to grow as a player and as a teammate.
“I look forward to growing with other freshmen by learning how everyone plays together on the court so that in years to come we will be an incredibly strong class.”
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