As the women’s volleyball team opens Ivy play at 5-5, one could also refer to the “second season” as a “new” season.
Considering all of the early injuries to key players, the departure of All-Ivy player Emma White and the heavy minutes being absorbed by former role players and freshmen, the Quakers’ progress up to this point can definitely be viewed in a positive light.
The match Friday against rival Princeton (4-6) is a great opportunity for a fresh start for the team.
After facing the likes of Villanova, Maryland and American, most of the competition in the Ivy League will be on par with the Quakers.
“We’ve settled into a couple of different lineups and we know our strengths and weaknesses, so we’re kind of just fine-tuning things during the week and focusing on what our opponents are doing,” coach Kerry Carr said.
“Instead of focusing on ourselves, the Ivy season lets us focus on what our opponents strengths are, and the different defenses we can use against them.”
Even with all the changes in the “first” season, the Quakers have had a core nucleus of players to rely on to contribute night in and night out. Sophomore Jasmine DeSilva and senior Kristen Etterbeek have led the Quakers on offense, contributing 123 and 111 kills respectively.
The coaching staff has been particularly delighted by DeSilva’s development. She has contributed steadily on defense with 13 blocks and is generally a spark plug for the team throughout sets.
“That’s one of the biggest thrills of this season,” Carr said. “We knew Jasmine was great athletically, but to see her composure on the court is like that of a senior.”
Kristen Etterbeek has been coach Carr’s rock all season. While fellow seniors Susan Stuecheli and Dani Shepherd have battled injuries, Etterbeek’s contributions on both ends of the court have been invaluable. She is third on the team in digs at 89 and also has nine blocks on the year.
Filling in for the reigning Ivy League defensive player of the year can’t be easy, but sophomore Alexis Genske has done a remarkable job. She is currently leading the team in digs with 117 at her unnatural position of libero. Her play as Shepherd returns to form will be critical in the immediate success of the Quakers.
The sophomore tandem of Alex Caldwell and Ronnie Bither is also holding their own. Leading the team with 240 and 209 assists, respectively, the two setters are developing into players the Quakers can count on for years to come. Caldwell is also third on the team with 81 kills.
Across the net, Princeton will go into the weekend at 4-6, dropping two of their last three. After tying for second in the Ivy League last year, they lost three seniors, including unanimous All-Ivy League selection Lydia Rudnick. One of the players replacing her is first-team All-Ivy hitter Kendall Peterkin.
Peterkin is leading the team in kills with 120 and should prove to be a challenge for the Quakers’ admitted troubles with blocking.
Princeton will provide a good litmus test for where the Red and Blue are this season. Both teams will be trying to use the game to jumpstart their Ivy League seasons, so the rivalry game on Friday promises to be even more entertaining.
“We know they’re always going to fight to the end like we will, and it’s a matter of who can outlast the other,” Carr said. “I love playing them first in the Ivy League season because we go straight to playing one of the most mentally tough teams in the conference.”
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