A 22-5 match record. A 68-24 game record. Twelve-straight match victories to end the season. Dominance of the Ivy League. After a phenomenal 2002 season, what does the Penn volleyball team have to play for?
The Quakers are not asking that question. Instead, they are looking to rewrite a few more pages of the program's history book.
Among the team's goals are winning a program record, third-straight Ivy title and moving past the first round of the NCAA playoffs.
Penn, however, is not assuming that they will have a easy trip through the Ivies and into volleyball's Big Dance.
"Every team in the league is going to be good this year," Penn sophomore outside hitter Cara Thomason said. "We have to treat each team like they could potentially beat us."
Penn's main competition on paper will come from Harvard and its junior phenom Kaego Ogbechie, who was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2001 and Player of the Year in 2002. Last season the Crimson and Princeton tied for second in the Ivy League.
"Harvard picked up some strong recruits in the areas that they needed them, so they will be stronger than last year," Penn coach Kerry Major Carr said.
The Quakers will be preparing for their second Ancient Eight title defense with two non-conference tournaments over the next two weekends and a home match against Bucknell at the Palestra on Sept. 23.
This weekend's tournament will take place in Stockton, Calif., on the University of Pacific campus. There, Penn will face three of its toughest opponents all season, including No. 8 Pepperdine (5-2), a West Coast Conference powerhouse and perennial playoff contender.
"You want to play teams in the non-conference part of your schedule that are going to help you prepare [for the Ivies] in terms of your confidence and physical ability," Carr said.
The Quakers will also be using their 11 non-conference matches to further develop their three-middle offense and add versatility to an already strong attack.
"It speeds up our attack and allows us to run much faster sets," Thomason said. "It helps to split the blockers a lot better, so we should be finding more holes this year."
The three-middle offense is especially suitable for Penn, which features four solid middle hitters in senior Heather Janssen, juniors Lynzy Caton and Natalie Francis and sophomore Michelle Kauffman.
"We're looking at a lot of different offenses... so that we can come up with the best one for our personnel," Carr said. "Right now, we're strong in the middle, but if we don't have the passing, then we won't be able to run the three-middle offense."
Rounding out the list of returning starters are senior captains Lauren Carter and Meghan Schloat at right-side hitter and setter, respectively, and outside hitters Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan and Thomason.
"Other teams will take more time to prepare before playing us," Janssen said. "Because they know we've won the last two Ivy Championships, they're expecting a lot from us."
The Quakers, too, are expecting a lot from themselves.
Season Preview Home court: The Palestra Last year: 22-5, 13-1 Ivy League Starters lost: (2) Stacey Carter, Elizabeth Watty Starters returning: (5) Heather Janssen, Michelle Kauffman, Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, Meghan Schloat, Cara Thomason Key game: at Princeton, Oct. 3, Penn opens the Ivy season against the rival Tigers. In 2002, the Quakers swept the Tigers for the first time in Kerry Major Carr's coaching tenure at Penn. Player to watch: Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan Leading the team in kills last season, the senior was named first team All-Ivy for the second consecutive season. She will be one of the keys of the Penn attack.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.