With her team down one set and 21-20 in the second against Oral Roberts, Ashley Hawkins slammed a game-tying kill through the Golden Eagles' blockers to give the Quakers the momentum they so desperately needed.
Hawkins followed up her powerful attack with a strong block on ORU's top attacker, Jackie Oliveira, to help propel Penn to a crucial 29-27 win.
The Red and Blue eventually lost to the more experienced Oral Roberts squad in a gritty five-set match Friday night. They failed to win another set at the Florida International Invitational in Miami, getting swept by both FIU and Central Florida on Saturday.
Despite the tough losses, Penn coach Kerry Carr was impressed by Hawkins and freshman right-side hitter Virginia Senf.
"Ashley Hawkins is just blossoming out of her shell," Carr said. "She's come into her own offensively. I thought she was outstanding this weekend."
Hawkins registered 12 kills against the Golden Eagles (6-4), with a stellar .375 hitting percentage. She finished the weekend with 20 kills and just five errors; Senf, meanwhile, notched 15 kills and six digs with just two errors.
"For a freshman to come on the court and play like that against these experienced teams with no fear is really a neat thing to see," Carr said.
Central Florida coach Todd Dagenais also recognized Senf's contributions.
"We had no answer for her," he said. "The only way we could stop her was trying to keep the ball out of her hands."
Senf and Hawkins were able to balance aggressive attacks with smart decisions. When the pair was not on the court, Penn (1-4) struggled to register kills and committed too many errors.
Those errors - 34 in the opening match, nine more than Oral Roberts - proved fatal.
In the fifth set, captain Kathryn Turner did all she could to get Penn the victory. With her team down 14-11 and facing match point, Turner dropped back-to-back kills on the Golden Eagles. But a Julia Swanson error - her 10th of the match - sealed the Quakers' fate.
While errors cost Penn the match, Carr pinpointed the team's blocking as its biggest weakness. The Quakers had just two blocks, compared to 16 for Oral Roberts.
Even improved blocking could not have helped the Quakers against FIU (9-1). The Golden Panthers trailed only once, falling behind, 7-3, early in the second set before coming back to win 25-19, en route to the sweep. Their All-American outside hitter, Yarimar Rosa, dominated with 18 kills on .364 hitting, helping her earn tournament MVP honors.
UCF's sweep was not quite as decisive. The Quakers came out hot with 19 kills on .357 hitting in the first set, pushing the Golden Knights to find another gear.
"Even though the score said 3-0, that was not a 3-0 match at all," Dagenais said. "Had we not played the best we played all year, we would not have won."
At times, the Quakers displayed the skill necessary to beat both ORU and UCF (6-5), but they were plagued by inconsistency and untimely errors.
"If we can hit [like we did against UCF], we're going to be OK this season," Carr said. "We just have to do it all the time."Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.