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Junior libero Caroline Furrer ranks second on the team with 172 assists this season.

Credit: Varun Sudunagunta

Penn volleyball's only goal this weekend? Beat Princeton.

The Red and Blue will open up Ivy League play against rival Princeton for the 18th-straight season this Saturday at the Palestra. Princeton (7-4) is a team that the Quakers (3-8) haven’t beaten since 2015, and this will be the first of two annual matchups between the two programs. 

Princeton has won three straight Ivy League titles and is the preseason favorite to win a fourth.

While the Tigers are coming off a 2-1 record at the Cherry and White Challenge, the Quakers are stumbling back from an 0-3 finish at the Mountaineer Classic

However, Penn is encouraged by its ability to compete and play with high energy.

“The foundation is there, which gives me a lot of hope and a lot of promise. Our tenacity, our grit, our resiliency, those sorts of things, don’t just go away,” coach Iain Braddak said.

This past weekend's road test proved difficult for a Quakers team relying on young talent. 

“I think when we get in high pressure situations and [we're] facing teams that are a little bit older, [it] can be challenging for us for sure,” Braddak said.

Whenever Princeton comes to town, no matter the sport, it's sure to be a hard-fought  competition. Not only are Penn and Princeton often the class of the Ivy League, but the age-old rivalry between the two schools has continued since the inception of the league itself.

However, for the coaching staff, the focus is on the conference as a whole, not necessarily one key matchup.

“For us, it’s the Ivy League. It’s definitely a different phase of our season; we’re excited for it,” Braddak said.

Although the team may be focused on the whole conference, there's a lot to worry about this weekend. Princeton boasts one of the conference's most powerful offenses. The Tigers are top three in hitting percentage, assists, and kills in the Ivy League. However, Penn’s defensive capabilities shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

“Our block team has worked hard to put up a disciplined block and our defensive players such as Caroline Furrer for sure have been leading our defense in her libero role,” Braddak said.

With freshman middle hitter Daniela Fornaciari, junior opposite hitter Madison Goldstein, and all-Ivy outside hitter Parker Jones — who also writes for the DP — the height and talent for blocking is there. Not to mention, Furrer has become an anchor for the team game-in and game-out. 

Importantly, Penn is primed to bounce back against Princeton. The Quakers have a chip on their shoulder, and with home court advantage and a strong desire not to drop a fourth straight match for the second time this season, they should not be written off.

This matchup will reveal what kind of competitor Penn can be when vying for the Ivy League title. The Tigers have become the gold standard in Ivy volleyball, but time will tell if there’s a new program ready to be crowned champion.

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