If history is any indication of the future, the Penn volleyball team will fare very well this weekend.
The Quakers all-time have a combined 8-0 record against the four teams that they will face tomorrow and Saturday at the fifth annual Sheraton-Penn Volleyball Invitational, hosted by Penn at the Palestra.
However, that does not mean that the Quakers will be taking their opponents lightly.
"I don't feel overconfident by any means because of our history," Penn coach Kerry Major Carr said.
The toughest challenge for Penn (4-3) this weekend will come from Big East powerhouse St. John's (14-3) and its sophomore phenom Jackie Ahlers. The 6'1" native of Stony Point, N.Y., is notching a stellar 4.98 kills per game and hitting .370.
Ahlers has also been named to three consecutive all-tournament teams and was selected twice as the Big East Player of the Week.
"She's like [Harvard junior] Kaego [Ogbechie] -- [she has] an incredible jump and the ability to pound the ball," Carr said of Ahlers. "Last year she was a little more predictable with where she hit, so we focused our defense around her and were able to take her out. That will be our focus again."
The Red Storm, however, has a strong supporting cast that will be problematic for the Quakers, including a pair of Hawaiian hitters from the same high school in Honolulu.
St. John's senior Rosalyn Dang and freshman Puna Richardson are both averaging over 2.5 kills per game and hitting at least .300.
This trio of hitters has already wreaked havoc on two Ivy League opponents so far this season. Penn is hoping that it does not become the third notch on the Red Storm's Ancient Eight victory belt after Princeton and Columbia.
Before the Quakers host St. John's on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., they will take on Marist (6-10) at 3 p.m.
The Red Foxes are a very young team, with 11 of their 14 players being freshmen or sophomores. Penn's first opponent tomorrow, Albany (9-3), also has an inexperienced roster -- with 10 of its 12 players underclassmen.
However, the Quakers do not necessarily think their opponent's young rosters will put them at a disadvantage.
"I think we're inexperienced, too, because we're learning new offenses and trying new things," Carr said. "They've played more games and won more, and both teams have great coaches."
The Quakers are working on a number of new things -- including running a more unpredictable offense.
"We're trying to think more outside of the box," Carr said. "We're pushing [Penn senior] Meghan [Schloat] to set different types of sets so that we're not as easy to read and adjust to, which was a problem against Bucknell on Tuesday."
Penn's offense will face a considerable test against Robert Morris (9-6) tomorrow. The Colonials are tough defensively, led by junior libero Darcy Thompson, who is averaging 4.85 digs per game.
"They're going to be really scrappy on defense," Penn senior middle hitter Heather Janssen said, "which will help us with our game because we'll have to adapt and improve on offense."
The Quakers welcome this final opportunity to fine-tune their game before opening the Ivy season against Princeton on Oct. 3.
"It's pretty unusual to have a five-team tournament," Carr said. "By getting an extra match in, I think by the end of the weekend, we'll be caught up and ready to go."Comments powered by Disqus
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