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Senior outside hitter Emerson Flornes of Penn volleyball during last season's matchup against Princeton on Oct. 21, 2022. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Nothing will stop Emerson Flornes. 

On the court, the Penn volleyball (3-15, 1-7 Ivy) outside hitter has always done a great job of controlling the net. As the heart and soul of the team, she is constantly invigorating her teammates — even when she’s not able to see game time. After suffering an ankle injury during the team's match against Villanova on Sept. 6, one that is predicted to keep her from playing the rest of her senior season, Flornes has been supporting her team like never before. 

“Despite my injury, I am still trying to be a great captain and be emotional support for my teammates,” she said. “I also have been helping in providing strategy and giving direction to my team, and making sure I can still help in player development.”

Flornes, now team captain, has been playing as a middle blocker on Penn volleyball since her freshman year. Last season, Flornes played in 66 sets and appeared in 20 of Penn’s 24 matches. Throughout, she led the Quakers with 45 blocks and executed 76 kills. Aside from her technical skill, Flornes has always been a confidant and a source of encouragement for her teammates.

“She is a fantastic leader and is very empathetic, always being able to see outside of herself and help those around her,” coach Meredith Schamun said. “My favorite thing about her is that she knows how to communicate with people, especially people with a different communication style. She has a way of understanding others and knowing what they need to hear and how to say it. Emerson has always been a teammate players can turn to and trust.”

Through support and guidance from her coaches, Emerson has succeeded in showcasing her leadership qualities on and off the court. Over her four years playing for the team, Flornes has not only improved in her volleyball skills, but also has learned a lot about herself as an individual. 

“The biggest thing I have learned is to detach yourself from the outcome,” Flornes said. “I am kind of a perfectionist, so it is really easy for me to get process-oriented and get lost in the technique and criticism. One of my coaches told me, 'You need to detach yourself from the outcome and just focus on setting yourself up for success every single time. Through that, you begin to achieve the outcomes you want.' From that moment, I have played really free, allowing myself to be a positive teammate, hungry in matches that are especially tight, and always enjoy the game.”

From the first day she stepped on the volleyball court, Flornes has enjoyed every second. Despite being unable to play for much of her senior year, she has taken on other roles and continues to travel and attend practices with the team. 

“There have been a lot of opportunities to both learn from others and impart my experience to others," she said. "What motivates me to come to practice is building and creating those intimate relationships with people and being able to influence others to lead us to our common goal. It is truly being a part of something that is bigger than myself, and leaving a legacy in an amazing program.” 

Both her coaches and teammates were heartbroken for her when she was injured. However, they have no doubt she will continue to be a positive influence and leader from the sidelines, as she has already shown in games since her injury.

“She is such a team-forward person, and the team is so excited that she is still around and able to be such a presence for them,” Schamun said. “When we call time outs she is usually the person leading the huddles, even though she is not on the floor. She does such a great job of reading the game and keeping her teammates up and calm, which I think is hard to measure and you don’t find very often.” 

As Flornes looks back on her Penn career, she wishes that she could tell her freshman self many things. However, the piece of advice she feels is the most important is to be more relentless in the pursuit of what you want, and seize each and every opportunity. 

“Even though she isn’t able to play with us right now, she is still very much in it,” senior defensive specialist/libero Julia Bradshaw said. “Emerson brings heart and passion.”