As the fall sports season draws closer by the day, the DP sports editorial staff took some time to sit down and debate: Which fall squad will be the most improved in 2015?
Sports Editor Laine Higgins: This fall, keep an eye out for Volleyball. Yes, the team did graduate four talented seniors in Trina Ohms, Kendall Turner, Meghan Connolly and Taylor Smith from the class of 2015. And yes, replacing Kendall Turner will be tough — the middle blocker led the team in hitting percentage at .295. But the rising senior class has already displayed the kind of leadership and dedication on the court necessary to push the Quakers towards a winning record in 2015-16.
Just take outside hitter Alexis Genske. The Altadena, Calif., native played in all 90 of Penn’s sets and recorded nine double doubles last season. In addition to being earning honorable mention All Ivy honors, she was named to two all-tournament teams early in the season. If the rising senior can start out 2015 with the same momentum as she did last season, her excellence on the court can no doubt set the tone for Penn - and a positive one at that.
The Red and Blue also have a strong class of emerging underclassmen. Rising sophomore Aimee Stephenson started in 21 of the Quakers’ 25 games, making an impact on defense upon arriving on campus. The outside/rightside hitter finished 2014-15 with the fourth most kills on the team with 109, and given her impressive rookie campaign that number will only go up this season.
Last year Penn volleyball was good. But this season, with the guidance of seasoned upperclassmen and promising newbies, they can be great.
Summer Sports Editor Tom Nowlan: I think field hockey could take a major step forward this season. Last year, the Quakers finished a pedestrian 3-4 in Ivy play, but that was largely a product of rotten luck: The Red and Blue dropped three of those four conference losses by only one goal. This year, the Quakers will return much of their top talent and could make some serious noise in the Ancient Eight.
Of course, everything will start with Alexa Hoover. The attack had an utterly dominant season as a freshman in 2014, leading the entire Ivy League with 14 goals. She’ll only get better with experience, as she still has room to grow as she adapts to the college game. Without a doubt, Hoover will be a treat to watch in 2015 and beyond.
To be sure, the Quakers will be hurt by the graduation of several key seniors. Emily Corcoran and Alex Iqbal were second and fourth (respectively) on the team in scoring last season and anchored the Penn offense during their four years in University City. However, the Red and Blue still have an impressive core, as Hoover is joined by senior attack Elizabeth Hitti and junior midfielder Elise Tilton.
The Red and Blue will face a challenging schedule in 2015, as they will square off with five teams who finished in the NCAA’s top 25 last season. If the Quakers get some breaks, they could finish the season right up there among the nation’s elite teams.
Sports Editor Holden McGinnis: Coming off of an Ivy League title in the previous season, men’s soccer took a step backwards last fall. The team finished the season with a 6-9-2 record and a fifth place finish in the Ancient Eight.
So for a team trending downward, why the upswing in 2015? After all, the team is graduating one of its all-time great scorers — forward Duke Lacroix — along with three other starters and one of its top reserve forwards.
To begin with, the team’s record didn’t reveal the whole picture — when has a record ever done that? Among those nine losses were three to top-15 programs and five one-goal losses. As coach Rudy Fuller liked to say during the season, the team struggled to execute inside the boxes, whether on offense or defense. It was those little moments of late-game execution that proved to be the difference in the season.
But last season shouldn’t be the predictor, after all this will be a very different team. While Penn graduated five strong seniors, the Quakers are bringing on one of the best recruiting classes — not just in the Ivy League — in the nation. CollegeSoccerNews.com ranked Penn’s class 12th overall, highlighting a number of youth national team players.
If Fuller and his staff can integrate this new class into the roster early in the season, the Quakers should be able to right the ship.Comments powered by Disqus
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