For half of the Penn volleyball team's 24 players, last weekend's cross-country trip to California for the Nike Invitational meant returning home and playing in front of family and friends.
Unfortunately for Penn (1-2), No. 24 Pacific (5-2) was not a gracious host on the court, defeating the Quakers on Friday at the Alex Spanos Center in straight games, 30-20, 30-24 and 30-18.
The Quakers split their matches on Saturday, dropping a 3-0 decision to No. 7 Pepperdine (8-2) before claiming a 3-0 victory over Radford (0-10) for their first win of the season.
"We played really tough competition," Penn coach Kerry Major Carr said. "But we figured out our mistakes early, learned and improved by the third match."
Penn's match against Pacific was in many ways similar to its first-round playoff contest last season against Penn State.
The Tigers are "among the best in the nation, so they're up there with Penn State," Penn sophomore middle hitter Michelle Kauffman said. "They had home court advantage with all their 1500 fans there, so it was just like NCAAs last year."
The Quakers struggled to contain Pacific senior Jennifer Joines, who notched a match-high 18 kills while hitting .467.
Joines "hit over and around our block a lot," Carr said. "She's a really good hitter, and there were some kills that we just couldn't do anything about."
Joines also accounted for four of Pacific's 12 service aces.
On Saturday Pepperdine would also disrupt Penn's attack with their serving en route to a 30-14, 30-15, 30-12 win over the Quakers.
The Waves "took us out of our offense with their serve," Carr said. "We did not pass well, which was a little disappointing. We just couldn't get our offense going."
While their opponents were finding their spots, the Quakers struggled on serve, earning just two service aces while committing 12 service errors over two matches.
Things turned around for Penn against the Highlanders, however, as it won 30-17, 30-21 and 30-19. The Quakers was overpowering on the serve, forcing Radford into committing 17 return errors.
"Our serving really picked up from the first match to the third match," said Kauffman, who served a match-high seven aces. "If we can keep our opponents on the defensive with tough serves, that will be a good sign for the future."
Kauffman -- who was named to the All-Tournament team -- also led the attack, earning a match-high 10 kills while hitting .526.
"We ran different offenses in all three matches to try and throw off our opponents," Kauffman said. "It seemed to work pretty well. We'll see what coach throws out next."
Among the attack schemes was the three-middle offense, which Penn added to its arsenal just three weeks ago.
"The 5-1 [offense] worked the best in the first two matches," Carr said. "But I wanted to stick with the three middles in the last match just to see if it would come together against a more comparable team, and it did."
Around 100 Penn fans cheered whatever offense the Quakers employed over the weekend.
"Penn fans really came on and helped us through the close points," Carr said. "We had so many parents and alumni here. We had our meals together and had a reception on the last night. It was just like a homecoming."
The Quakers came home to Philadelphia this morning at 6 a.m. on a red-eye flight from the West Coast and will immediately return to the courts.
"A lot of our mistakes on passing and serving this weekend were mental errors," Carr said. "We made great steps this weekend. We're just going to keep hitting the courts and clean up the mistakes that we're making on our side of the net."Comments powered by Disqus
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