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Senior Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan sends home a spike against Robert Morris. Kwak-Hefferan was given the Sheraton Invite's Most Valuable Player award. [Julia Zhou/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

After opening the tournament 3-0, dropping its final match wasn't exactly how the Penn volleyball team wanted to end the fifth annual Sheraton-Penn Volleyball Invitational at the Palestra.

But the 3-1 loss to St. John's (18-4) in the tournament's headline match on Saturday was not without a silver lining for the Quakers (7-4).

After falling in the first game, 30-26, things again looked bleak for Penn in the second with the Red Storm ahead, 27-24.

But the Quakers fought back with tough serving from senior Lauren Carter, whose two consecutive service aces gave Penn a 28-27 lead.

The teams then exchanged several sideouts, bringing the score to a 31-31 tie.

On the ensuing play, Penn senior outside hitter Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, who was the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, smashed a shoot set to the left pin that was shanked by St. John's libero Nicole Colaluca.

As the ball headed toward the scorer's table, the scorekeeper put his hand up and deflected it.

A point was initially awarded to Penn, but St. John's sophomore Jackie Ahlers, who contested that she was within reach, clamored for interference. After a lengthy delay, the referee ruled in St. John's favor and decided to replay the point.

The Quakers were unfazed. On the next play, Carter and Penn sophomore Michelle Kauffman stuffed an attack by Ahlers, a high-flying 6'1" hitter who finished with a match-high 26 kills.

The Red and Blue eventually took the game, 37-35.

"That second game was amazing, flawless and mentally tough volleyball," Penn coach Kerry Major Carr said. "When after a call like that and a long break, you go out just as tough and make the other team fold."

Penn's stellar defensive effort in the backcourt was led by freshman libero Meredith Damore, who had a match-high 20 digs in the four-game contest.

"Meredith had a heck of a game," Carr said. "For a freshman to go in there, push people out of the way and dig balls was awesome to see."

Although the Quakers dropped the next two games and the match, they earned a great amount of respect from St. John's, who moved to 3-0 against Ivy League opponents this season.

"Penn isn't going to lie down for anybody," St. John's coach Joanne Persico-Smith said. "They're tough, and although we beat them in the first game, they didn't put their heads down."

In defeating the Quakers, the Red Storm avenged a 3-1 loss to Penn at the Palestra last year.

"We were close last year, and we wanted a little revenge," Persico-Smith said. "I know some coaches don't believe in revenge, but I like the feeling of showing someone that you are good and that you can beat them."

Albany (12-4) was not as successful at avenging its 3-1 loss to the Quakers last year. Penn's first of three victories on the weekend came against the Great Danes, who finished 3-1 and in a tie for first with Penn and St. John's.

"The coaching staff at Penn does an unbelievable job," said Albany coach Kelly Sheffield, who is a good friend of Carr's. "Every single year, the program gets so much better. I hope the people here appreciate what kind of quality coaching they've got."

Penn's other two victories came against Robert Morris (10-9) and Marist (6-14), both by scores of 3-1.

In the Quakers match against Marist, Penn setter Meghan Schloat became the fifth player in program history to reach 2,000 assists.

Penn will have one more week of practice before opening up the Ivy Leauge season against rival Princeton on Friday.

"We've made a ton of progress since preseason," Carr said. "We still have a tough week of practice ahead, but I think we're as ready as we were last year."

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