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Sophomore defender Carmina Raquel continued her strong start to the season, improving her season dig total to 162 in just nine games.

Credit: Christian Walton

Just over two weeks into its season, Penn volleyball has already racked up more wins than it did all of last year.

This weekend, the Quakers collected two more wins after traveling to Riverside, Calif. to compete in the UC Riverside Invitational. The meet gave the Red and Blue (7-2) exposure to a few West Coast teams that they rarely get to see, and it was the first year the group has played on the West Coast since 2014.

On Friday, the Red and Blue faced off with Seattle. After narrowly winning the first set, the Quakers went back and forth with the Redhawks (7-5) in the next four frames, ultimately taking the fifth set to win the match. Sophomore captain Margaret Planek posted three aces and 13 kills, second only to junior captain and Daily Pennsylvanian staffer Parker Jones, who led both teams with 16 kills. 

Planek is off to a solid start to her second season with the Red and Blue. It took her just six games this year to surpass her season total of 53 kills in 25 games in 2018. She’s currently sitting at a season total of 103.5 points, which at an average of 3.34 per set puts her at sixth overall in the Ivy League. 

Later on Friday, Penn had a meeting with UC Riverside. The Highlanders (4-6) took the first set before the Red and Blue bounced back, winning the next three sets consecutively. Freshman outside hitter Autumn Leak led the Quakers with 11 kills, while Planek had a strong showing on defense, posting four blocks. While the Red and Blue consistently defended their side of the court, they were forced to step up their offensive attack.

“On the West Coast, we saw more solid defense," Leak said. "In the [previous two tournaments], it has been easier to get through blocks. This weekend, we struggled a little bit trying to put the ball on the floor, so we had to work extra hard to really find those open spaces and put the ball down."

While attacking on offense was a challenge throughout the weekend, Penn's defense — and particularly sophomore Carmina Raquel — performed well. Raquel, a defensive specialist, currently leads the Ivy League in digs, with 162 in nine games. Additionally, this weekend marked her second consecutive all-tournament honor. 

On Saturday afternoon, Penn capped off its weekend against Cal State Fullerton. After the Quakers picked up the first two sets, the Titans (7-3) fought back to take the next couple, capitalizing on errors by the Red and Blue. Penn put up a fight in the fifth set but ultimately lost, 15-12, ending its six-game win streak. 

After facing some tough competition in Riverside, a point of emphasis for the Quakers was efficiency.  

“The whole theme of this weekend was holding ourselves to a higher standard and being more accountable to each other. Also playing with a sense of urgency,” Leak said. “We’ve had a lot of five-set matches and four-set matches, but in the future, our goal is to really make sure that we beat teams in three.”

The Quakers will look to build off of another multi-win weekend as they open up Ivy League play at Princeton (4-5) on Friday.