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Freshman outside hitter Caroline Furrer has wasted no time emerging as a star for Penn volleyball. The Texas native ranks fourth in the Ivy League in kills and sixth in digs through three games, helping her team get out to a 2-1 start in conference play.

Credit: Arabella Uhry , Arabella Uhry

Coming off a sweep in the first Ivy doubleheader of the year, Penn volleyball will hit the road over fall break and take on Cornell and Columbia.

The Quakers (7-8, 2-1 Ivy) carry momentum into the weekend after wins over Harvard and Dartmouth, but they’ll face two hungry teams in New York, with the Big Red (5-7, 0-3) desperate for their first conference win and the Lions (8-5, 3-0) looking to stay undefeated in league play.

Cornell, whom the Quakers will face first on Friday night in Ithaca, is far more formidable than its winless Ivy record might suggest. The Big Red have blown big leads and lost by paper-thin margins. Remarkably, Cornell has outscored its opponents, 304-298, en route to its 0-3 record against Ancient Eight foes.

“There is no chance of us overlooking Cornell,” Penn coach Kerry Carr said. “They have an amazing offense. They’re outhitting, outplaying the other teams they’re losing to. They’re definitely a force to be reckoned with. As soon as they figure out the last couple points of each set, they’re going to be very good, and it might be our [game] that they figure that out.”

Columbia, meanwhile, has had no trouble finishing off games, leaping out to the first 3-0 Ivy start in program history. Penn will look to introduce the Lions to the loss column on Saturday in Manhattan.

“It really will be about jumping on top of Columbia and staying on top of them,” Carr said. “Because the longer you play them, the better they get, the smarter they get.”

As far as the Red and Blue are concerned, beating the 0-3 team will not be easy, nor is the challenge of topping a 3-0 side insurmountable. The Quakers aren’t cocky, but they are confident after a 2-1 start to Ivy play in what many expected to be a rebuilding year for an extremely young team.

A key contributor to Penn’s success has been freshman outside hitter Caroline Furrer. The Texan wasted no time becoming one of the Red and Blue’s biggest threats on offense, putting up a whopping 20 kills in just four sets against preseason opponent George Mason. In Ivy play, she is off to a thunderous start, with double figures in both kills and digs in each of her first three contests.

“Caroline’s biggest strength is her confidence,” said sophomore and fellow outside hitter (and Texan) Courtney Quinn. “As a freshman — one of the freshman that consistently plays every game — that’s something you have to have. If she gets blocked, the next ball she’s coming out swinging all-out still. She never gets down on herself, and she bounces back from mistakes really fast.”

“She’s like a sponge, she just wants to learn more and more,” Carr said.

While the freshman is often praised by her teammates and coaches, getting Furrer to talk about herself, is a much harder task.

“I would say [it] has come from the team,” Furrer said when asked about her individual success, “and how hard everyone pushes each other.”

Furrer ranks fourth in the Ivy League with 40 kills and sixth with 46 digs through three games. She is confident that if she and her teammates can keep up the strong play, Penn should be able to take care of business this weekend, regardless of the competition that awaits the Quakers in the Empire State:

“I personally believe it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net as long as you take care of your side.”

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