Halfway through their season, Penn women’s volleyball is looking like a new team.
Fresh off a weekend in which they earned their first Ivy wins of the season by taking down Columbia and Cornell, the Quakers (5-13, 2-5 Ivy) will get to put their newfound momentum to the test. They face Princeton (13-5, 6-1) for the second time this season, but this time in New Jersey.
The back-to-back wins were key for the younger team in building a sense of confidence that was previously lacking after some tough early season losses. Sophomore outside hitter Raven Sulaimon had a particularly impressive weekend, coming off a combined 29 kills between the two games.
“Beating Cornell and Columbia, especially at home, gave us so much confidence as a group,” Sulaimon said. “Going into Princeton we’re more confident than we’ve ever been this entire season, everyone trusts each other that much more, and I’m so excited to see us compete.”
Seeing Princeton again after a tough Ivy League opening 3-0 loss will provide the Quakers with another chance to see how they fare against the defending Ivy League champions.
“We’re a different team now. We’ve learned those lessons, we’ve made those changes… and ultimately it’s all about execution on our game plan. We know through and through that our game plan is solid and what it comes down to is executing and making sure we’re all on the same page,” coach Ian Braddak said.
After a series of key offensive plays that allowed for aggressive net play this past weekend, the Red and Blue are looking to keep up their momentum, working on different shots throughout the week in practice in order to prepare for Princeton’s aggressive shot block.
With seven games down and seven more to go, the Quakers are at a potential turning point. Now in the second half of Ivy play, each game will be the return match against an Ivy opponent that Penn has already played. Having already seen the other Ivy teams for the first time, the Quakers hope to change the narrative of their past performances.
“One of our goals is to improve on the performances we’ve had in the past. So where there were losses we turn those into wins. Where there were four-set wins we turn those into three-set wins. And that’s been kind of the theme of the year: constant growth and trusting the process throughout all of our matches,” Braddak said.
With the first conference wins out of the way, and a renewed energy around the team, Penn will go to Princeton looking for an upset. If they can build on their momentum and surprise the Tigers, the Red and Blue can turn last weekend’s success into a streak and but the rest of the Ivy League on notice.
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