Needing a pair of wins to stay alive for a top-three spot in the Ivy League, Penn volleyball freshman outside hitter Caroline Furrer would refuse to allow her squad to go down without a fight.
But despite Furrer’s dominance on both sides of the ball, the Quakers couldn’t pull through on either night of a tough road doubleheader. Penn ended a two-match win streak with a four-set loss to Brown before traveling to Yale and falling to the Bulldogs in straight sets.
On Friday, the Bears (5-17, 3-9 Ivy) dominated the beginning of the match, but the Quakers fought back to win the second set. However, Brown ultimately controlled the ends of the third and fourth sets to seal the win.
In its final road match of the year, Penn (10-14, 5-7) struggled against second-place Yale (17-4, 10-2), losing each set. However, in the third set, the Quakers stepped it up, with a remarkable .324 hit percentage and 16 kills. For Yale, junior setter Kelsey Crawford created opportunities for her team with 16 assists, while sophomore hitter Kelly Wirth had 14 digs.
But in both matches, Furrer served as a major bright spot for the Quakers, demonstrating that the future is bright for coach Kerry Carr’s senior-less team. The freshman had 12 put-aways and nineteen digs against Brown, and she followed up that performance with 10 kills and five digs against Yale.
“I’m really proud of Caroline, that she has just stepped it up the last couple weeks. ... She’s got her confidence back and she also has taken study to the game every day in practice,” Carr said. “I think it’s her work ethic that she comes every day and wants to get better at one or two things that makes her super coachable for all coaches.
“She’s added so many different shots and hits to her game now that she was able to, in these very tough matches this weekend, produce kills for us.”
Following her strong weekend, Furrer ranks second on the team with 205 kills.
“This weekend was definitely a weekend full of learning for myself and the team,” Furrer said. “We faced two very good teams and I think coming out of his weekend we learned a lot more about grit and energy through adversity. They threw a lot of different things at us, but we remained whole, and together we just kept fighting no matter what the circumstances were.”
Now deadlocked in a three-way tie for fourth place, Penn looks forward to its final matches of the year, when the team will host Cornell (11-11, 5-7) on Friday and Columbia (13-9, 8-4) on Saturday. Looking to improve before next week’s crucial doubleheader, the Quakers are anxious to return to practice and put this weekend’s mistakes behind them.
“We did some good things in both matches, but overall our improvement must be our serve-receive. We need to get better with that,” Carr said. “We struggled a little bit at times with that and getting the balls to all three of our hitters.”
“I think we have a lot of hard work we have to do this week,” Furrer added. “Our mental focus needs to be there.”
Earlier in the season, Penn traveled to both New York schools for a doubleheader, falling to Columbia and Cornell in five sets each.
“There is a little chip on our shoulder that we want to knock off these two teams,” Carr said. “It was close, and on the road, that we lost to the upcoming two teams. I know that the student-athletes really want it badly.”
After five straight matches on the road, there’s no doubt the Quakers are excited to return home and leave everything on the Palesta floor in an effort for the team’s first top-four finish since 2013.
“There is no lack of motivation, on our home floor,” Carr said. “We have been away for three weeks. We want to play the way we played that last set against Yale all the time.”