PHILADELPHIA - The Penn volleyball season closes tonight with a matchup against rival Princeton, the Ivy champions who have yet to be defeated in league play this season. For the Quakers, the match represents a chance to mar the Tigers' run to the title. It also will be an emotional sendoff for four seniors who will be playing their final collegiate match tonight, as seniors Laura Black, Meredith Laning, Anna Shlimak, and Linda Zhang close out their Penn careers.
The Quakers (17-8, 10-3), who have not claimed victory over Princeton (21-3, 13-0) since September, 2005, were one of two Ivy League teams this season to take the Tigers to five games when they fell at Princeton, 3-2, on September 29.
Despite that loss, Penn still had hopes of claiming the Ivy League championship heading into last weekend. They saw those hopes dashed, however, when they fell 3-1 at Yale on Friday night. The team bounced back on Saturday at Brown, rallying from an 0-2 deficit to claim a 3-2 victory. Shlimak led the way with 19 kills, while freshman Madison Wojciechowski came up with 34 digs, the second most by any Penn player ever in a single match. With just six digs tonight against Princeton, Wojciechowski will set a new record for the most digs in a season by any player in Penn history.
With a win against Princeton foremost in their minds, the Quakers also recognize tonight's match as a chance to honor four seniors who have led the program over the past four seasons.
Senior Laura Black has been one of the Quakers most consistent scoring options over her four years, averaging over 250 kills a season. A 2006 second-team All-Ivy and Academic All-Ivy selection, she was named a captain heading into her senior campaign. Known for her offensive prowess,Black has also been a key to the Quakers’ defense this season. She has 41 block assists, making her one of six players in the program’s history to help on at least 200 rejections. Earlier this season against Fairfield,Black recorded 31 digs, a personal-best and one of the six best games ever recorded by a Quaker. And on Saturday against Brown, she slammed home 15 kills, enough to make her just the fourth player in program history to record at least 1,000 kills in her career.
Senior Meredith Laning has been one of the Quakers top defensive options off the bench, recording 76 digs in 39 games thus far this season. Named a captain coming into this season, she has also developed into a dangerous server, recording four service aces this year. Despite limited playing time,Laning has shown significant improvement in both areas, more than doubling her career totals in digs and service aces coming into this season. Against Brown last weekend, she stepped in with the Quakers down 2-0 and contributed 14 digs to slow down the Bears and help Penn make a furious comeback for a 3-2 victory.
Senior Anna Shlimak is always a threat to send the Quakers on a scoring run with a devastating serve that has led to 31 service aces this season and 105 in her Penn career. An outside hitter and one of just four players to have at least 200 kills this season,Shlimak has also made significant contributions on the defensive end, rejecting over 125 shots in her career, including 42 this season.The senior captainhas also picked up 256 digs this year, the most of any non-libero on the team.
Senior Linda Zhang has joined an elite club within Penn volleyball, becoming just the fourth Quaker ever to reach the 3,000 assist plateau with 740 this season coming into tonight. Currently sitting at 3,307,Zhang has consistently found a way to get the ball to cutting, leaping teammates and has keyed an offense that went on a seven-game winning streak earlier this season and has earned 13 3-0 victories. In addition to her ability to set up her teammates, this senior Unity Council captain has a knack for creating shots of her own, sending home 58 kills this season on .253 shooting, giving her more than 400 kills in her career with a .288 attack percentage. On top of being the cornerstone of the offense,Zhang also has 33 blocks and 189 digs this season.
The Quakers and Tigers take the court at 7 p.m. tonight following a Senior Night ceremony that will honor the four Quaker seniors.