PHILADELPHIA After a preseason filled with grueling practices in the steamy Palestra, the 2008 volleyball team is prepared for the upcoming campaign. It will be a season of change for the Quakers as they set foot on a new floor in The Palestra and prepare to tackle new rules that have been implemented to allow the game to more closely resemble the international style of play. In the end, though, it won’t be the new hardwood beneath their feet or the new regulations in place that determine the success of the Red and Blue it will be the players on the court.
“As a team, we are more cohesive and prepared than we may have been last season,” head coach Kerry Carr said. “The team spent a lot of time this offseason and preseason bonding as a group. When you couple that with the tremendous amount of work they put in on the court, we are simply better as a team.”
Carr is pleased with the way the women have focused on team success this season.
“More than any individual accomplishments, this team wants to win,” she said. “While everyone is looking to improve individually, they all have the feeling that, in the end, it doesn’t matter who gets the kill or dig as long as the team is playing well and winning matches.”
One area that is vital to getting off to a quick start is the overall health of a team. Oftentimes, the workload of preseason camp can take its toll. That has not been the case for Carr’s squad.
“We are in great shape, well-conditioned and injury-free,” she said. “That is something we can build on and allow us to have a great start.”
One specific area of work that has been focused on in camp is communication. In a sport where chemistry and interaction between the players is vital, a chance to work as a unit during preseason hopefully translates into the regular season.
“Communication is everything on the court,” said Carr. “We will not be successful unless we are communicating at the highest level. Whether it is on hits or sets, we need to talk to each other. It all starts from how we interact as a team off the court and then how it transfers to match play.”
One of the reasons communication will be important is the new rule changes in place for the 2008 season. One rule change is that no longer will sets play until 30 points. Instead, teams will play to 25 points in the first four sets before the traditional 15-point fifth set (if necessary). This puts an increased focus on working in the early portions of the set, as there is less room for catching up if trailing.
“We have put an increased focus on the number 25,” Carr said. “That is the winning number. The thing is, we are in the same position as every team that we play. Whoever adapts to the new rules first will have a chance at great success.”
In addition to the number of points needed to win a set, the other major change is in how ball handling errors will be called. There will be a more clear definition, allowing for fans to understand why an error is being called. Referees will now only call egregious errors. The change is intended to keep the focus on the rallying aspect of the game as well as the ever-increasing athleticism of the players.
The 2008 schedule features three early-season road trips that will prep the Red and Blue for an always-tough Ivy League season. After a season-opening doubleheader with Fairfield and Bowling Green at The Palestra, Penn heads out for a stretch of nine-out-of-ten matches on the road. Up first for the Quakers is a trip to the Sunshine State and the Florida International Invitational (Sept. 12-13). While in Miami, Penn will play Oral Roberts, Central Florida and host FIU. The following weekend, Penn heads to the Main Line for the Villanova Classic and matches with Nova, La Salle and Bucknell. The third road trip sends the Red and Blue across the country for three matches with teams from the left coast. The University of San Francisco, Saint Mary’s and the University of Seattle are all on the docket out west.
“The team loves to travel and the players are used to it,” said Carr. “It will be nice to get out on the road and away from the one court we have been on all preseason. Plus, we will have a chance to play at the hometowns of some of the players, which is always nice.”
The 2008 team features returning senior Kathryn Turner a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection in 2007. She led the Quakers with 92 blocks last season. She will be joined by Julia Swanson, the 2007 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and an honorable mention All-Ivy choice. She led the Red and Blue in kills with 298. Swanson’s fellow sophomore, Madison Wojciechowski, returns as the team’s leading libero and looks to build on her impressive freshman campaign that saw her set the school record for digs in a season with 457.
Joining the Quakers as freshmen for the 2008 season will be three women Logan Johnson, Corinne Rich and Virginia Senf. Johnson and Senf are rightside hitters and Rich is a middle blocker.
The Quakers begin their season with a pair of matches at home in The Palestra on Sept. 5. At 10 a.m., Penn hosts Fairfield and at 1 p.m., the Red and Blue take on Bowling Green.