For the second straight year, Penn women's volleyball will begin a new season with a new coach.
Penn women’s volleyball opens its first season under new coach Iain Braddak this weekend at the Georgetown Classic. The Quakers will compete against George Mason, Norfolk State, UNC-Wilmington, and the host, Georgetown, in a round-robin format.
The Red and Blue are coming off a campaign where they finished .500 in Ivy League play for the first time since 2013. Despite a fifth-place finish in conference, the Quakers only finished one game out of third-place.
The Red and Blue will be looking to build on that season, as well as incorporate the culture set by their new coach when they open play.
“The extension of our culture and the foundation we established the last couple of weeks is very important [this weekend],” Braddak said. “I hope that we get out there and play Penn volleyball.”
Despite graduating multiple key seniors, the Red and Blue still have plenty of firepower.
The Quakers return an accomplished trio of outside hitters in senior Courtney Quinn and sophomores Parker Jones and Raven Sulaimon.
Jones, who is also a staffer for The Daily Pennsylvanian, leads the offensive barrage. A second-team All-Ivy selection, she led the Ancient Eight in kills (318) and added 248 digs while playing every set for the Quakers. Quinn was an honorable mention All-Ivy in 2016, a season where she led the team in kills (260) and recorded 300 digs. Sulaimon finished her freshman year with 128 kills, all of which came against Ivy opponents.
Defensively, the Red and Blue are in good hands with junior libero Caroline Furrer. The captain made her impact felt last season by recording 321 digs and 29 service aces, good for team-best and sixth in conference.
On the first line, senior middle Brooke Behrbaum figures to play a large role again this season following her successful campaign last year, when she led the team with 69 blocks and added 115 kills while hitting .254.
One question mark remains however at setter, where the Red and Blue lost All-Ivy Honorable Mention Sydney Morton. According to Braddak, the Quakers will use a combination of senior Grace James and freshman Kylie Kulinski during the tournament this weekend as well as moving forward.
“They’ve been pushing each other extremely hard in the gym,” Braddak said. “I foresee us going back and forth between the two of them and relying a lot on their skills and talent and certainly their leadership on the court.”
Although Kulinski and the rest of the freshmen will be seeing their first ever game action this weekend, all of but one of their opponents will have already competed.
George Mason (0-2) finished 6-21 last year and dropped their first two matches to open the season. The Quakers handled the Patriots last season in their only meeting with a straight-set victory.
Georgetown (2-2) finished their first weekend at the Hyatt Regency Invitational in Atlanta, Ga. with mixed results including a 0-3 loss to Georgia Tech.
Norfolk State has yet to compete this season, but the Green and Gold finished last season with a record of 3-23.
UNC-Wilmington (0-3) traveled to Colorado last weekend and faced some stellar competition, losing in straight sets to No. 12 Illinois and No. 25 Colorado State. Despite finishing 11-17 last season, the Seahawks figure to be Penn’s toughest competition after posting three straight 20-win seasons from 2014-2016.
Regardless of who the Quakers face this weekend, they are determined to focus on their own game.
“There may be programs out there that worry about the opponents quite a bit,” Braddak said. “For us its taking care of the ball on our side of the net and making sure we’ve executing on our fundamentals and executing day to day at the very top of our performance ability.”
“It doesn’t matter who is across the net from us,” echoed senior captain Taylor Cooper. “We’re always going to perform to the best of our abilities and uphold Penn standards."
“We don’t take any games off.”