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Credit: Alex Fisher , Alex Fisher

After an up-and-down start to the season, Penn volleyball hit its stride on its first weekend of league play.

On Friday and Saturday of the weekend of the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia, the Red and Blue left town for New Jersey to face off against Princeton, who brought a four-game win streak into the match, and NJIT the following day.

Friday night’s match against Princeton (5-5, 0-1 Ivy) was the Quakers’ first Ivy League face-off of the season, and thanks to stellar performances from seniors Alexis Genske and Ronnie Bither, they dispatched the Tigers, 3-1. Genske recorded a double-double with 14 kills and 14 digs, while Bither contributed a staggering 44 of Penn’s 49 total assists in the match.

Genske had nothing but praise to give for Penn’s (7-6, 1-0) recent performances. Crediting the squad’s new mindset, she spoke of their success.

“We’ve taken a new approach of breaking down games into mini-games. It gives us good focus,” Genske said. “During preseason we were a little bit unsteady, but we just changed our focus this weekend. We’re focusing really strongly on each part of the game and just being really aggressive.”

As the first match of the Ivy League season, the team encountered new struggles compared to previous games this year. Freshman outside hitter Courtney Quinn described the tension of the away match, saying, “the crowd was very hostile. They yelled lots of personal things. [The team] hadn’t faced that yet, but we handled it really well.

“It fired us up.”

Hostile environments like those at Princeton (5-5, 0-1) can often be intimidating, especially for freshmen like Quinn, but she attributed her team’s success to their great chemistry.

“Our seniors have been so awesome bringing us into the team, making us feel comfortable on and off the court,” Quinn added. “Team chemistry is something that’s going to take us a long way. The seniors have really helped us get into our groove.”

The Red and Blue stayed in that groove into the next match of their double-header weekend against NJIT. Penn swept the Highlanders (4-11) in emphatic fashion to take its winning streak to three straight as it finished its non-conference season with a .500 record, a three-game improvement from the team’s 2014 output.

For the coming weeks, the Quakers will be duking it out with bitter division rivals. Genske expects close, hard-fought matches, but also expects success, citing the team’s new aggressive mentality.

“Hopeful and excited,” she said, describing her feelings about the upcoming Ancient Eight games. “We’re super stoked to be going into next weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard.

“We know it’s going be a dogfight this year, but we feel ready now.”

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