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Penn senior Lauren Carter, shown last year against Dartmouth, and the Quakers look to stay undefeated in the Ivies against Columbia and Cornell. [Eric Sussman/DP File Photo]

This weekend, the Penn volleyball team will face its biggest competition in the Ivy League -- literally and figuratively.

The Quakers (12-4, 5-0 Ivy) host Cornell (15-1, 6-0) tomorrow at 4 p.m. at the Palestra in a battle of the Ancient Eight's two remaining undefeated teams.

The Big Red catapulted themselves to the top of the league with a pair of formidable outside hitters and an imposing frontcourt defense.

Leading Cornell's dangerous outside attack this season is Elizabeth Bishop. The freshman is averaging 4.23 kills per game while hitting a stellar .350.

Bishop has, no doubt, been mentored by Cornell senior Debbie Quibell, a two-time first-team All-Ivy selection and the school's all-time leader in kills.

While Quibell's hitting percentage has been subpar this season at .187, the rest of the team has more than made up for what she has lacked. Hitting .278 as a team, the Big Red are ranked No. 16 in the nation in attack efficiency.

Defensively, senior middle hitters Jamie Lugo and Ashely Stover comprise the backbone of a frontcourt defense ranked No. 2 in the nation with 3.32 blocks per game.

While the Big Red look tough on paper, the Quakers believe that they have an effective strategy for exploiting their opponents' game.

"Every defense has holes, every offense has a weakness," Penn coach Kerry Major Carr said. "We obviously don't want to tell exactly what our strategy is right now, but we do think there are areas of the court that we can penetrate."

Part of Penn's offensive strategy will likely include the three-middle offense that the Quakers added to their playbook this season. Cornell has yet to face a team in 2003 with as much depth in the middle as Penn.

Strategy aside, Penn has also found practical ways to prepare for the Big Red's height.

"We've had our assistant coaches block a lot in practice to give our players a feel for what a bigger block is like," Carr said.

Before the clash of the Ivy titans tomorrow, Penn will host Columbia (0-14, 0-6) tonight at 7 p.m.

Although the Lions have been swept in 10 of their 14 matches and have never beaten Penn in 32 tries, the Quakers still view Columbia as a viable threat to their undefeated league record.

"They went five with Brown," Carr said of the Lions. "That's something to always keep in mind. You can't overlook anybody in this league."

But Penn still does have two advantages over its opponents this weekend -- the Palestra and the confidence associated with back-to-back league titles.

"I think we're still the team to beat since we've won two in a row," Penn senior setter Meghan Schloat said. "But Cornell is riding pretty high right now with their winning streak. I'm sure they're thinking that they're going to beat us, but I think we're going to have a good showing this weekend."

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