Even though Penn football has yet to kick off its season, most of the fall sports are in full swing. It may still be early, but here are three of the teams that have surprised us with their performances thus far.
One of the biggest questions coming into the fall season was how Penn volleyball would bounce back from its worst season in history. After a year in which the team put up an overall record of 6-19 and went 3-11 in Ivy League play, additional questions were raised in the offseason after allegations of mistreatment by first-year coach Iain Braddak. But despite some players leaving the team and others being lost to graduation, the Quakers have overcome these issues to race out to a 5-1 record so far, the best start in 10 years for the program.
Penn has taken part in two four-team tournaments so far, falling only to Lehigh at the Crosstown Invitational and sweeping the competition at the Valley Forge Sports Invitational last weekend at the Palestra. Junior opposite hitter and captain Parker Jones, who is also a staffer for The Daily Pennsylvanian, was named the tournament MVP last weekend in front of her home crowd and has racked up 55 kills and 32 digs on the season. Also paramount to the Red and Blue's success is freshman setter Taylor Fourticq, who has burst onto the scene after Grace James' graduation and put up 132 assists to lead the team so far, more than double her next closest teammate.
The 2009 squad started the season 8-1, and this year's team has the chance to match that at this weekend's UC Riverside Invitational.
It's no secret that Penn men's soccer didn't meet expectations last season. The squad finished 5-5-6, picked up just two Ivy League wins, and was held scoreless in eight contests.
This season, the Quakers have turned things around in a big way. They opened the year with a 2-0 victory against Monmouth, whom they edged in overtime last year. After topping Marist in their home opener, the Red and Blue lost a hard-fought contest to No. 19 St. John's. The Red Storm broke through in the 80th minute to edge Penn.
Four days later, the Quakers tied No. 24 Rutgers, with junior defender Alex Touche netted the equalizer in the 70th minute — his first goal of the season. This is the first time since 2015 that Penn has tied with a ranked team. Though the Quakers haven't had a winning season since 2011, they have a good chance to get above .500 with the way they have been playing as of late.
Penn field hockey is no stranger to scheduling tough games early in the season. In each of the last three seasons, including this year, the Quakers have played at least two ranked opponents in their first four games.
To begin the 2019 season, Penn lost to top-ranked North Carolina and No. 15 Wake Forest, two contests in which the Red and Blue were underdogs. Following these difficult tests, Penn’s next two matchups — against Monmouth and Villanova — were more favorable, at least on paper. However, the Quakers still weren’t able to get in the win column, and they are now 0-4 for the first time since 2011.
With Monmouth and Villanova both being unranked, Penn had a good opportunity to pick up some momentum before the beginning of Ivy play, but the group will now have to wait until Sunday — when it plays No. 14 St. Joseph’s — to get another chance to break the losing skid. Additionally, Penn’s most recent defeat against Villanova was its first loss to the Wildcats since 2011.
However, the Red and Blue have proven that they can bounce back from a slow start. In fact, last season, they started with a 2-3 record before ultimately finishing the year at 5-2 in the Ivy League.
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