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Women's Volleyball against Yale at the Palestra on Friday, Nov. 14. The women's team lost a close match to Yale, with the Bulldogs winning 3 sets to 2 sets, ending the Quakers' playoff hopes. Penn senior Kathryn Turner #4, sophomore Megan Tryon #12, Yale junior Laurel Johson #3, and senior Ally Mendenhall #8 Credit: Pete Lodato

A grueling preseason, during which the Penn volleyball team lost more matches than it did in its entire 2009 campaign, has finally given way to the Ivy League slate.

While the Quakers struggled against some of the top teams in the nation ­— and the toughest teams they’ve faced in program history — the squad has been hoping that early challenges will reap benefits in conference play.

The Red and Blue (4-7) will finally get to see if their preseason efforts have paid off when they open their conference season Friday against Princeton at the Palestra.

Yet the road to reclaiming the Ivy title may be rocky for the Quakers— especially with Dartmouth and Harvard standing in the way.

As the only conference team to come out on top of the Red and Blue last season, the Crimson were predicted to be Penn’s biggest threat. But Harvard was recently defeated by Dartmouth, which could forecast the difficulty of the upcoming matches.

“Harvard definitely has some of the better offensive talent, but Dartmouth has been playing great defense lately,” coach Kerry Carr said.

Though the Quakers had their way in Ancient Eight play last season, this year brings a new set of challenges, and Penn can’t afford to discount any of its Ivy competitors.

Princeton, which finished third last season, is coming off a strong nonconference slate and went undefeated earlier this season to win the Lafayette Tournament.

And like the Red and Blue, the Tigers are also challenging themselves with a tough preseason ­— they recently played No. 4 Penn State.

For a Penn team whose biggest strength lies in a powerful offense led by senior setter Megan Tryon, defensively minded Ivy foes could pose a challenge.

“Our strengths are our offense, and a lot of the stronger teams’ are their defense,” Carr said. “We match up really well with that, but we’ve also got to bring up our defense so that we can match their level of play at their level.”

But this is only speculation ­— the true tests are the matches.

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