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09-04-21-womens-volleyball-vs-canisius-madison-risch-kylie-cooper
Sophomore Madison Risch dives to the ground to bump the ball back in the air in the game versus Canisius at the Palestra on September 4th. Credit: Kylie Cooper

Penn volleyball closed the weekend at the DePaul Invitational, dropping all three games to finish with an 0-3 record against Akron, Oakland (Mich.), and DePaul. After sweeping with a 3-0 record at home in the Sheraton University City Volleyball Invitational last weekend, the Quakers struggled to pick up where they left off.

Penn kicked off the tournament against the Akron Zips, who, like the Quakers, were coming off a tournament sweep before the matchup. After a back-and-forth start to the first set, the momentum of the game turned in Penn’s favor with a kill — and subsequent block on the next play — by opposite hitter Margaret Planek. The Quakers never looked back, going on an 11-5 run to win the first set.

Dropping the next three consecutive sets, the Red and Blue couldn’t sustain the positive momentum that they had built for themselves and ended up losing to Akron in four. Led by junior Autumn Leak’s 17 kills, sophomores Madison Risch and Emerson Flornes also added 8 kills each. 

Despite the tough loss, Penn was forced to quickly move onto its next opponent: Oakland. With only two hours between the end of their first match until their next against Oakland, the Quakers didn’t have the fresh legs of a normal game. 

Keeping it close in its first set, Penn held a lead while Oakland slowly worked its way back into the game. Tied up at 21 each, the Golden Grizzlies pulled ahead at the last minute with a 4-2 run to seal the win in the first set. Despite the 24 combined kills by Leak, Planek, and junior Madeline McGregor, the Quakers didn’t have enough to secure the series — Penn volleyball fell to Oakland 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-13).

In preparing for its next match, Penn had an extra opportunity to scout their opponents. 

“In these tournaments, you don’t always have a ton going into them. There’s very little information,” Penn volleyball head coach Meredith Schamun said. “Being able to scout DePaul live gave us a good idea of what they were going to come out with this morning.”

With the added scouting information, the coaching staff was able to better prepare for their final game. 

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Head Coach Meredith Schamun deliberates with the other volleyball staff and bench during the game vs Canisius on Sept. 4.

“We went back and forth with some of our positional players, and so we moved some players around into different positions to try to put together some strengths,” Schamun said. “Just to get a certain look against different attackers and different blockers.”

Aside from the technical aspects that needed adjustments, players had to shift their mindsets as well. 

“After Friday’s game, we just wanted a fresh start,” Leak said. “We reflected and thought that this isn't the team that we are — this isn't how we play.”

Looking to bounce back on Saturday, Penn started slow. After being down 0-4 in the first set, the Quakers quickly made a comeback fueled by two kills from Planek. Penn surged to take a 12-9 lead before running away with the set winning at a score of 25-18. 

“The first set we came out strong — we were super positive and we were just playing our game,” Leak said. “I do think we played a lot better than yesterday and were a lot more focused on what our roles were.”

Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, Penn would go on to lose the next three sets against DePaul. One kill shy of her career-high, Leak tallied 20 kills in the series. 

Going forward, Schamun wants to see Penn clean up the defensive end of their play.

“I think we’re going to change up some things defensively in trying to give ourselves better opportunities to score,” Schamun said. “There were some good things that came out of this match, so we don’t want to change too much.”

Penn volleyball next takes on Lehigh for an away game Tuesday at 7 p.m. with a chance to get back over .500. 

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