Penn defeats Harvard in volleyball with an easy three set match at the Palestra. P(7) Julia Swanson H(6) Teresa Skelly Credit: Frances Hu

Though the volleyball team was unable to repeat last year’s first-round magic in the NCAA Tournament, the Quakers are building themselves a dynasty.

Penn ended the 2010 campaign tied atop the Ancient Eight with a 12-2 record (17-10 overall) and a second-straight Ivy title — a solid mark considering its difficult preseason slate and “rollercoaster” Ivy season, as senior Megan Tryon described it.

“I think over the course of the season, we definitely had ups and downs,” coach Kerry Carr said. “We faced a lot of adversity, but I think we became a better team in the end.”

Penn started off the season knowing that a tough road was ahead. Not only were they defending their Ivy League title, they were also staring down a particularly difficult nonconference schedule, which featured several competitive schools, including a match against No. 9 UCLA.

From the outset, the hope was that these matches would challenge the Quakers and aid in their growth. However, Penn began the Ivy season with a 4-7 record and then lost to Princeton in its first conference match — a inauspicious start for a team with a ‘championship or bust’ mentality.

“That was a changing point in our season,” Carr said of the Princeton match. “We went back to the drawing board and changed everything around.”

Penn lost just one more match in League play, going on to win a share of the Ivy title with Yale and setting up a one-game playoff between the two. With the stakes raised, the Quakers emerged victorious and punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

The League crown was their second straight and fifth in 10 years.

“We started off on a low but got together to figure things out, and all of a sudden, everything seemed to click,” Tryon said. “There was something really powerful about how we were able to come together.”

Though they are quick to deflect attention, Penn’s three record-setting seniors deserve much of the credit.

Julia Swanson, Madison Wojciechowski and Tryon — all of whom have their names splashed across Penn and Ivy record books — were each named to the All-Ivy first team for a second year. Tryon also received the honor of Ivy League Player of the Year, marking the second-straight season a Penn player has received the award.

“What’s so special about these players is not the awards they’ve won or the records they’ve broken, but what they brought to the practice gym every day and how they left this program at such an improved level,” Carr said.

The players, however, weren’t alone in breaking records.

Now at the end of her 13th season as head coach of Penn’s volleyball team, Carr has a program record 214 wins — breaking the previous one set in 1989 by Joe Sagula.

“She’s really great at uniting a bunch of individuals and really [getting] them on the same page in achieving the same goal,” Tryon said about Carr.

“I think it’s a great accomplishment and I know we were all really proud of her,” Wojciechowski added.

For Carr to continue her program’s dynasty, she’ll have to find seniors with the talent and mindset to take the reigns from this year’s leaders.

“The hardest working teams I’ve had are those that have had to repeat as champions,” Carr said. “For me, this is a very, very special team.”

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