They say familiarity breeds contempt. But for Penn volleyball, it breeds focus.
After crushing Brown and taking down first-ranked Yale in its last two matchups, the team hopes to continue its climb towards the top half of the Ivy League standings this weekend against two recognizable foes. Once again, the Quakers will square off against Cornell on Friday and then Columbia on Saturday, this time on their home court in the Palestra.
The last time Penn (10-9, 5-5 Ivy) met Cornell (10-9, 6-4) and Columbia (9-10, 4-6) this season, the results were split, with the Quakers falling to the Big Red 3-1 and picking up a 3-2 win against the Lions. Going back even further, the last two games of the 2016 season were against these same two opponents within the walls of the Palestra, and on that occasion, the Quakers walked away with two disappointing losses.
“I want to go out with a bang,” said senior setter Sydney Morton, who along with five of her classmates will play her final home games this weekend. “I just want to put on a great show for [the fans] and get a W the last time I’m playing in the Palestra.”
The team has certainly generated an enormous amount of hype surrounding this last homestand after its outstanding victory versus Yale. The game went down to the wire, but the Quakers ended up valiantly defending the Palestra. Morton and freshman outside hitter Raven Sulaimon agree that their squad’s methodical play factored into the exciting outcome.
“If we focus play by play, point by point, rally by rally, it’ll work out in the end,” Sulaimon said.
The Quakers are bringing the same honed-in approach to these upcoming games against Cornell and Columbia.
Despite the conference-wide implications of two Penn wins, the Red and Blue isn’t going to allow the apparent pressure to factor into their performance, given their newfound, single-minded mentality.
“Coming into the game, we all forget whatever seed they are and how many games they’ve won,” Sulaimon said.
“Every point, every set, we’re focused in on. We’re not focused on the outcome at the end of the season because it’s not over yet,” Morton added.
This gritty mindset will be especially important come this weekend, as Cornell and Columbia are riding high on win streaks of two and four games, respectively. In fact, Columbia hadn’t even won a conference game until this run commenced, their last loss being against Penn.
“[Columbia] has won a lot of games that they shouldn’t have,” Sulaimon said, but she then pointed out that she and her teammates have also forced upsets that have gained them notoriety, such as the Yale triumph.
The Lions will surely be looking for some blood in the water this weekend along with the Big Red. Penn, however, takes pride in having a target on its back. Underestimated in the past, the Quakers strive to continue defying expectations.
“We turned a corner this past weekend,” Morton said. “We played as a team, and everyone contributed.”
With home-court advantage supporting them, the Quakers can certainly get in the zone, as they did against the Bulldogs, and force their doubters to not count them out once again.
“We’re onto something great here,” Sulaimon said.
The future awaits.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.