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Freshman outside hitter Zada Sanger during the team's matchup against Lafayette on Sept. 9. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Penn volleyball has been busy during the past month, playing two games most weekends, as the Ivy season continues on. Although the Quakers lost their first seven games in conference play this season, Penn finally took home its first conference win following a battle against Columbia, and improved its conference record to 1-7.

Young talent have been leading the charge, specifically freshmen right-side hitter Bella Rittenberg and outside hitter Zada Sanger. They both have been consistently racking up the most kills in nearly every game since the start of the team's Ivy campaign. Against Brown, Sanger led the Quakers' attack with 7 kills, and the following weekend during their trip north to battle Dartmouth and Harvard, Rittenberg was at the top of the scoreboard with 11 and 9 kills against the Big Green and Crimson, respectively. The following weekend, Sanger collected the most kills in a tough loss to Cornell, and was a key contributor with 15 kills in the team’s winning match against Columbia. 

“We had a lot of young talent on the floor [against Columbia], which was great," coach Meredith Schamun said. "Bella had a great game. She got back into her game, hitting line quite a bit. Our freshmen defensive specialists both went in and helped us in a lot of big rallies, creating more passing opportunities and defending as well ... Zada is the person we rely on a lot, but of course, when she’s down, it’s nice that we have other people to step up.” 

In addition to Rittenberg and Sanger, the Quakers also have some veterans that have been instrumental to the team’s perseverance through the tough losses leading up to their recent win. Senior setter Jo Amstrong has been a consistent offensive force in several recent games, averaging 25 assists per game, and the team’s sophomore class as a whole is strong. 

Sophomore Claire Deller was a key player in building momentum during their match against Cornell with five kills, three block assists, and four digs. The next day, during Penn’s game against Columbia, sophomore setter Anna Shohfi was a crucial offense piece with 37 assists, five digs, a match-high three service aces, and four kills on 13 attacks, and in the same game, fellow sophomore and libero Abigail Reid led the Quaker defense with 13 digs. 

As a whole, despite their record, the team has come together across different positions and experience levels, which showed during the game against Columbia. 

“Throughout these past few losses that we’ve had, we’ve done a lot of deep soul-searching within our team in the locker room," Deller said. "It felt like there was a switch after we lost to Cornell, we came into Columbia with the mindset of ‘We are not losing this game.’ Everyone on the team was completely bought in and wholeheartedly believed that this was the game we would win. ... The players on the bench, on the court, and the coaches all collectively kept the mindset of being relentless and not backing down.”