Penn volleyball is a changed team.
At this time last year, the Quakers had finished their nonconference play and had won only three of 11 matches. Two-thirds of the way through their nonconference season, with 17 matches left in the season overall, the Red and Blue currently have a record of 5-1.
“For team success and personal success, they just kind of go hand-in-hand. Everyone working together as a team is really what’s putting us on top right now,” junior setter Kacie Burton said. “Passers make our jobs easy, hitters make us look good, and our bench is crazy all the time. Everyone’s energy and everyone’s effort at all times is why we’re winning and doing well.”
The Quakers ended their 2018 season with a record of 6-19, going 3-11 in the Ivy League. Despite the team’s less-than-ideal record, senior setter Grace James finished the season with 641 assists. In 14 matches James had 30 or more assists. She also had 137 digs in 2018, putting her at third-best on the team in that category.
Sophomore setter Kylie Kulinski also stepped onto the court for Penn last year. She played in seven matches, totaling 204 assists, and she had more than 40 assists against both Delaware and St. Francis.
This year, however, a new setter is making an impact for Penn. Freshman Taylor Fourticq has played in four matches and already has 132 assists. She notched 50 assists against Maryland Eastern Shore to help the Quakers win in five sets.
Fourticq is starting above sophomore setter Kylie Kulinski and Burton, though Kulinski did play in two matches instead of Fourticq.
“I think everyone has just been really welcoming. Especially being a freshman, it’s kind of hard being a setter because it’s a more vocal position than being a freshman [usually is], and I haven’t played with everyone before,” Fourticq said.
Part of what has made Fourticq so successful is the support from her fellow setters. The players aren’t overly competitive with each other and focus instead on helping each other out.
“We have position groups here, and the setting position group is easily the best one," Fourticq joked. "I love all the setters, and it’s really good because whoever’s playing, it doesn’t matter. When they come off the court, everyone will talk and say, ‘here’s what you’re doing well, here’s what you need to work on,’ and it’s super supportive and a good environment.”
Changes in the lineup aren’t the only reason Penn is having a fantastic season. The team also has a different vibe, one that is more energetic and encouraging than before.
“Honestly, everything’s different this season, on an energy level mostly,” Kulinski said. “Everyone’s so positive and supportive of one another, so in the setting position, it helps because every one of the setters is always supporting the other setters, always pushing each other. I think that’s just an overall difference from last year.”
“I think as a whole, our team has really good chemistry,” Kulinski said. “Everyone on the bench, everyone on the court, we’re all working together, and if you’re not physically out on the court, you’re supporting from the bench. That all combined together is what’s helping us succeed.”
This weekend, the Quakers will travel to Riverside, Calif. to compete in the UC Riverside Invitational, where they will finish nonconference play. They will start Ivy play next week, opening against Princeton.
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