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But Penn coach Kerry Major said she considered the loss an improvement. Rarely does a 3-0 defeat in volleyball satisfy the losing team. But when you're the Penn volleyball team, and you haven't been in a game for a few weeks, a good performance is quite gratifying despite the outcome. The Quakers (5-12) dropped their seventh straight to Villanova (11-1) last night at the Palestra, 15-11, 15-12, and 15-5. "We played really well," Penn coach Kerry Major said. "[Villanova] is one of the strongest teams in the Big East and we stuck with them and almost beat them the first two games." The Quakers attribute their better play to the mentally grueling practices over the past few weeks. "We had a really good practice yesterday," Penn freshman Jodie Antypas said. "It definitely showed up in our match today." The Quakers spent Monday's entire practice passing, which resulted in a super passing performance last night. "We have certainly been pushing through a lot of our mental blocks in practice," Penn senior Karen Lewis said. "It was obvious that it helped today because our passing was the best aspect of today's match." The Red and Blue also broke through mentally on defense, improving that aspect of the game compared to past matches. Penn had eight blocks compared to only two by the Wildcats, while recording 70 digs, an impressive statistic. "I think we played with a lot of intensity and got to a lot of balls on defense that we hadn't gotten to in the past," Penn junior Kristel Weaver said. "We played pretty hard and were very scrappy defensively." The Quakers impressive defense and passing led them to play on the same level as the Wildcats for much of the match. The first two games were close for their duration until Villanova pulled away at the very end due to a combination of good play by the Wildcats and mental errors by Penn. The final game was not really a contest with 'Nova pulling out to a quick 7-0 lead. The Quakers never even got out of the gate until the Wildcats held a 14-3 lead. With the 11-point deficit, Penn was able to win a few side out points, much like they had been doing in the first two games. "We did some nice things today despite one of our starters being injured," Villanova coach Heather Hoehn said. "We tried some different lineups trying to see what would work and what wouldn't. Luckily, we came up with some good combinations." The injured starter Hoehn referred to was 1997 All Big East player Megan O'Brien, who sat out with a twisted knee. O'Brien is averaging 4.11 kills per game and is tops on the Wildcats with 26 service aces. Leading the way for Penn in the match were Lewis, who recorded a .571 attack percentage, and Weaver, who had 10 kills. Penn next faces an important weekend, with matches against Cornell and Columbia. Both Ivy League opponents are, like the Quakers, winless within the conference. "I'm happy going into the weekend," Major said. "Not as happy as if we had a win, but happy." Major and the rest of the team still point to cutting down mental errors as the key to winning this weekend. Despite the better passing play and defensive prowess, the team still made 10 serving errors and 9 blocking errors, which can be attributed to the mental aspect of volleyball. "I think we'll be successful this weekend, but we still need to clean up some of our errors," Lewis said. "Both teams won't be as tough as 'Nova was, but we have to serve better, and pick it up in a lot of areas." For the most part, the team believes that if they play as well as they did last night, they will beat both Columbia and Cornell. But, if they lose to these inter-league opponents, one can guarantee that they will not again be satisfied with defeats.

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