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Sophomore Michelle Kauffman goes up for a kill against Bucknell. The Penn volleyball team takes on Princeton tonight. [Anna Grafton/DP File Photo]

Two years ago, the Penn volleyball team began Ivy League play by traveling to New Jersey and knocking off the then two-time defending league champion Princeton Tigers in four games.

It was the Quakers' first victory over the Tigers since 1993.

"I'm sure that for every sports team, every coach and every player that's ever competed at Penn, beating Princeton is like winning the championship," an emotional Penn coach Kerry Major Carr said afterwards. "I know we still have that ahead of us, but there's no greater feeling in the world than beating Princeton tonight."

The Quakers would go on to win the conference championship and earn an NCAA playoff berth that year.

Penn repeated those same feats in 2002.

Tonight, the Tigers (6-4, 0-0 Ivy) are looking to return the favor, as the Red and Blue (7-4, 0-0) are now the two-time defending champions.

Penn is aware of its position as the hunted in the Ivy League.

But the Quakers are not thinking about how other teams perceive them. Instead, they're only focusing on their own play and winning the next match.

"Every league match counts," Carr said. "I think that's something hard to remember. We have to knock teams off one by one, and then do it all over again. If you start looking ahead at the whole picture, at a third Ivy League title, you're going to get in trouble."

The Tigers will be ready to pounce on any indications of looking ahead. Although Princeton lost two of its top hitters in Abby Studer and Michelle Buffum to graduation last season, its 2003 roster still features senior outside hitter Kellie Cramm.

The 2000 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and two-time first team All-Ivy selection led Princeton in kills (337) and digs (273) in 2002.

Cramm and Princeton senior Kerry Song lead a backcourt defense that is expected to be formidable once again in 2003.

"Their defense and passing have always been awesome," Carr said. "We need to keep expecting the ball back until it hits the ground."

In order to frustrate Princeton's defensive efforts, the Quakers will utilize a number of different offensive schemes and personnel combinations.

Defensively, the Red and Blue are working on coverage and switching between different defensive sets.

"Our goal in terms of coverage is to have three people cupped around our hitter and then have another person further back behind the cup that can pop up those deeper touches," Penn freshman libero Meredith Damore said.

Penn's main focus, however, will be maintaining a consistent level of mental toughness.

"Our biggest enemy right now is ourselves," Carr said. "We don't fire up to the intensity that we know we can play at. If we play with that intensity, we can beat anyone."

The Quakers are hoping that level of intensity will carry them to a program-record third straight Ivy title.

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