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Junior libero Michelle Pereira has been the Quakers' best defensive player thus far, leading the team with 348 digs. Her efforts have helped the Red and Blue to lead the Ivy League in digs.

Credit: Natalie Kahn , Natalie Kahn, Arabella Uhry

It seems that the Quakers have run into a hiccup on their path of development. Hopefully a Halloween road trip weekend can scare them into shape.

Staring down yet another middle-of-the-pack Ivy finish, Penn volleyball will try to finish strong in the second half and put a scare into its Ancient Eight counterparts ahead of the Quakers in the standings.

The last time the Red and Blue (8-12, 3-5 Ivy) tangled with the two northeastern schools, it resulted in a 2-0 home stand for Penn as the team eked out a close five-set victory over Dartmouth (8-11, 1-7) before taking down Harvard (6-11, 4-4) in four sets on national TV.

Since that weekend, the Red and Blue have been reeling, losing four of their last five. The team hopes that this road trip weekend will help break them out of this funk as the second half of the conference slate progresses.

“We just have to bring back the offense we had against Harvard that we haven’t had against stronger teams,” Penn coach Kerry Carr said. “It’ll be challenging on their home court but I think we’re up to the challenge.”

Key to reversing their fortunes will be capitalizing on their offensive opportunities. For a Penn team that leads the Ivies in total attempts for kills, a middling .192 hitting percentage has stymied their strength on offense.

“It’s all about having confidence to go for things instead of playing it safe,” Carr said. “Getting more than 15 kills per set has been really successful for us.”

Penn will arrive first to Cambridge on Friday to face a Harvard squad which will be looking to build on its one game lead over the Quakers and keep Penn out of the top half of the standings. The Crimson have yet to find any stability in their Ivy slate thus far, alternating between wins and losses over their past six games.

Harvard has also shown defensive vulnerabilities, as they rank at the bottom of the league in digs, opening the door for Penn’s offense, which ranks second in the league in kills, to put up some big numbers.

Waiting on Saturday for the Red and Blue will be a date with Ancient Eight cellar-dweller Dartmouth in Hanover. Facing a team with just a lone conference win over Cornell, the Quakers will have to remain wary if they want to avoid a reversal of their close 3-2 win over the Big Green just under a month ago.

In a matchup between the league’s most error-prone offense in Dartmouth, with a conference high 383 errors, and the league’s most stout defense in Penn, with an Ancient Eight-leading 1,223 digs, junior libero Michelle Pereira could prove to be the star of Saturday’s clash.

“[Pereira]’s doing great,” Carr said. “She’s in a tough position to take a lot of digs and we’re asking a lot more of her but she brings it every game.”

With the season winding down to a close, each game will be crucial for the team’s development. With a team devoid of seniors, the second half of the conference slate presents the Quakers’ final opportunity to build team chemistry to help them contend next fall. Positive results from this upcoming road trip could go a long way in helping position the team for a deep Ivy run next season.