Carmina Raquel has proven to be the defensive anchor of Penn volleyball. Leading the team in digs by a wide margin, her skills have been vital to the team’s success.
Raquel comes from a deep line of volleyball players. Having three older sisters, two of whom have played volleyball at the collegiate level, the sport runs in her blood. The sophomore defensive specialist is also one of eight players on the team from California. Growing up in Los Angeles, she was brought up in one of the most competitive sports cities, where she started to play volleyball in the third grade.
“My three older sisters played volleyball when I was super young, so I would always go to their practices with them and shag balls on the sideline," Raquel said. "One day the coach asked me if I want to join the team, because I was there every day."
As Raquel grew up, she continued to improve her volleyball skills while balancing athletics with academics. Eventually, she found the opportunity at Penn to join her older sister Caroline, who is currently a senior on the team.
“It’s super great. I am going to miss her a lot next year," Carmina said. “It’s so funny, I feel like I only see her during volleyball, especially in season, because we are always so busy with class. It’s super nice to have that older mentor figure [who's] already close to me."
However, Raquel’s transition to Penn volleyball was tough in that then-coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley — who recruited Raquel — had departed to accept a coaching role at Penn State. Despite this, Raquel saw a lot of the court last season as a freshman, tallying 103 digs in 79 sets played.
Although Penn had a disappointing year, finishing with a 6-19 record, it allowed the group to make vast improvements during the offseason. In their first 10 games this year, the Quakers already have one more win than in 2018.
“In general, we’ve been putting a lot of hard work through our preseason and throughout the beginning of non-Ivy play. I think we are all super geared up to be competitive and really achieve a high bar of excellence and keep pushing that bar," Raquel said.
Raquel has quickly become a cornerstone of the defense. Taking over after the departure of Caroline Furrer, last year’s team leader in digs, Raquel now leads Penn and the Ivy League with 197 digs so far. Raquel has also earned all-tournament honors in Penn's last two tournaments.
“We have been putting a lot of hard work into specific position training. Every Monday, we do specific position training … which allows us to have really specialized position work and to really break things down," Raquel said. "I think that has definitely contributed a lot to our success.”
As the Red and Blue enter League play, they have the opportunity to improve, after finishing at the bottom of the Ivy standings last year. Raquel is leading the way, being one of three players who has seen action in every set the Quakers have played so far. She is most looking forward to protecting Penn’s home court, something in which she and her teammates take great pride.
“I am excited to play in the Pal again; we love being on our home court," Raquel said. "I think we love to say ‘protect the Pal’ and kind of having that pride of winning on our home court and taking pride in the jersey and in Penn and the Red and Blue."
Penn will have several chances to protect its house in the coming weeks. In fact, the Quakers have a four-game home stretch beginning on Friday. They will put their undefeated home record on the line against Cornell, Columbia, Brown, and Yale during that period — and Raquel will certainly play a pivotal role.
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