This past weekend, the Quakers made a statement.
After a tough loss the previous weekend, Penn volleyball prepared hard all week for its upcoming pair of conference showdowns. That hard work paid off in the form of a 3-0 win over Brown on Friday and a 3-2 win over Yale on Saturday. The two wins in two days gave the Red and Blue (10-9, 5-5 Ivy) their first Ivy League doubleheader sweep of the season.
“In the locker room, I told them we had a hard week of practice, and I think every one of them worked their butt off and improved,” coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley said. “That's what our goal is, to improve every time we step on the floor.”
After besting lowly Brown (6-15, 1-9) in straight sets on Friday, the Quakers turned their attention to Yale (14-5, 8-2), a far more formidable team that entered the game atop the Ivy League standings. But while preparing for the match, the Quakers didn’t think about how they were going up against a top-ranked opponent.
“We just work on ourselves, no matter who the opponent is,” senior outside hitter Hayley Molnar said. “We are our own team, and if we play our best game, we’re gonna beat whoever’s on the other side.”
The game against the Bulldogs was a tumultuous battle of two powerful teams. After dropping the first set, the Quakers looked to be in control with a 2-1 lead and, with a big lead in the fourth set, all signs were pointing to an imminent victory.
However, after Yale closed the fourth set deficit and forced a fifth set, that victory began to seem less and less certain.
“I think we struggled [at the end of the fourth set], whether it was passing or attacking, we just had a couple unforced errors that Yale took advantage of and found a way to score,” Schumacher-Cawley said.
Back in the huddle, the coach prepared her team for the final set that stood between them and victory.
“[What I told them] was to stay aggressive, to keep swinging as attackers and to just be disciplined on defense, you know, to have that aggressive mindset that we were gonna win,” Schumacher-Cawley explained.
Molnar agreed, adding that the togetherness of the team was a vital element to the eventual victory.
“I think it’s honestly just us coming together and believing in ourselves and knowing we’re the better team,” she said. “It’s this great team effort to get to where we are, because no one person can win a volleyball game.”
Not only was the win a remarkable athletic accomplishment, but it was also an emotional triumph.
“I like can’t even put it into words, because us seniors actually have never beaten Yale our past four years and so like this is just, I can’t even tell you,” Molnar said. “I’m ecstatic, I'm happy, I'm like shaking. I couldn't be prouder of everyone on the court.
Penn will certainly hope to use the momentum and confidence from its two wins this weekend to further improve in the final four games as the season nears its conclusion.