With just two games left this season against Columbia and Cornell, Penn’s season is almost over. But in many ways, these last two games are just the end of a beginning for a very young and talented team.
And while this season may have been a tough beginning for the Quakers (10-13, 5-6 Ivy), there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic for next season. The biggest reason, of course, is that Penn didn’t have a single senior on the roster this year. And yes, that means the entire team will be back again next fall.
Knowing that they still have another year together isn’t making the Red and Blue complacent though. If anything, it’s making the Quakers that much hungrier to finish out this season strong with two wins against Columbia (13-9, 8-4) and Cornell (11-11, 5-7).
“We have a lot, not to prove, but still left to do in this season,” coach Kerry Carr said. “And I think whatever we do, we’re doing it in the gym every day in practice. We’re getting better every single day. We just learned something new with blocking today and I think that that’s the energy that a young team brings. That at the end of the season, you’re not just trying to get through practice, you’re actually still learning.”
The big thing the Quakers still have to do this season is exact some revenge. Both the Lions and the Big Red defeated Penn in tough five-set matches this season, so Penn is eager to have another chance at them.
If the Quakers are able to flip the script in the Palestra this weekend, freshman outside hitter Caroline Furrer will likely play a big role. Last weekend against Brown and Yale, Furrer showed out nicely. The 5’10’’ Texas native was especially effective against Brown, finishing with 12 kills.
“Caroline’s been someone that on the day she stepped on the court, was a more experienced, mature player than being a freshman,” Carr praised. “And so she was able to handle some things, but I think when people figured her out a little bit across the net, she had to take a step back and work harder in the practice gym. And she’s done that and added more to her game.”
As for Furrer’s own thoughts on her performance, she was quick to credit her success to her teammates.
“That really helped me out personally this weekend, having all of the players behind me at every point,” Furrer said.
Penn’s players will have to continue to rally around each other if they want to turn this season around and end on a positive note this weekend. Despite Furrer’s strong performance, Penn actually lost both its matches last weekend. A loss was to be expected against Yale (17-4, 10-2), who is currently second in the Ivy League, but the loss against Brown (5-17, 3-9) was particularly deflating. The Red and Blue had even beaten the lowly Bears earlier in the season.
And while this weekend’s games won’t affect the top of the Ivy standings, the Quakers certainly feel they have a lot to play for. Penn enters the weekend tied for fourth place in the Ivy League with Cornell and Harvard. A successful outing this weekend could be just enough to push the Red and Blue into the upper half of the league. It might not be a lot, but for a young team, that’s definitely a step in the right direction.
“I think that every moment we spend together now is only going to make us better for the next season,” Furrer said. “So I think that’s really pushing us to keep working hard and strive for not only to finish this season off really well, but I think that’ll help us for next season also.”
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