Volleyball Aims for Statement Win in California

PHILADELPHIA - After a taxing weekend against a trio of city rivals inside The Palestra this past weekend, the Penn volleyball team hits the road for California to take part in the Molten Classic presented by Hilton Garden Inn. The Quakers open with the host of the tournament, the Cal Golden Bears, on Friday night at 7 p.m. (PST). On Saturday, Penn has a 1 p.m. (PST) meeting with Northern Arizona and closes the event at 5 p.m. (PST) against UC-Riverside.

Last Time Out
Beginning its season a week later than its opponents, Penn still managed a 2-1 start to the season with wins over La Salle (25-13, 7-25, 25-22, 25-19) and Villanova (25-14, 25-23, 25-23) at the Big 5 Tournament. Though the Quakers shared their 2-1 record on the weekend with Temple and Villanova, the Owls claimed the team championship thanks to their advantage in winning percentage in all sets played. Temple's 3-1 win against the Quakers was the first time since 2007 that Penn has dropped its season opener. Sophomore Emma White and freshman Ronnie Bither were named to the All-Tournament team for the Red and Blue. White had two double-doubles on the weekend and ended with 26 kills and 45 digs over the three matches. She also added four service aces. Bither was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after her three-match total of 113 assists, an average more than 10 per set. Not only active on offense, she had 41 digs and eight block assists to aid the Quakers' stingy defensive effort.

Scouting the Golden Bears
A 1-2 weekend at Hawaii knocked Cal out of the latest AVCA Top 25, but the Golden Bears proved to still be a dangerous team, taking down the No. 6 Rainbow Wahine by a 3-2 score in the final game of the tournament. Cal began the season with a 3-0 neutral-site win over a Delaware squad that Penn will match up against next month on the road. Adrienne Gehan leads the attack thus far for Cal, recording 67 kills through five matches while hitting at a .169 clip. Correy Johnson missed the first two matches of the season, but has made up for lost time with 32 kills last weekend and a .299 hitting percentage. Joan Caloiaro, a transfer from the University of San Francisco and high school graduate of Archbishop Mitty -the same high school that produced Penn freshman Alex Caldwell - has been the main setter for the Golden Bears and is averaging 8.10 assists per set. Mary McKennon leads a balanced defense with 4.05 digs per set, while the front line has 52 blocks on the season, an average of more than 10 a match.

Scouting the Lumberjacks
Northern Arizona enters the weekend at 6-0 with tournament championships at UNLV and Colorado to its credit. But this is nothing new for the Lumberjacks; last year's squad began the season 12-0 before dropping 10 of its final 13 matches. Kelli Dallmann and Jana Vander Ploeg spearhead the NAU offense, each averaging well over three kills per set. Sydney Kemper is third on the team in kills but is hitting a spectacular .402 with just eight errors on the season. Setter Kalee Kirby is making the most of her talented hitters, coming into the weekend with an average of 11.36 assists per set. Defensively, Anna Gott leads the Lumberjacks with 86 digs while Dallmann and Vander Ploeg have contributed 48 and Kirby and Trianna Henry have chipped in with 46.

Scouting the Highlanders
At 3-3 with wins over Fairleigh Dickinson, Providence and Eastern Washington, the jury is still out on UC-Riverside. Of UCR's six matches, only one has gone longer than three sets (a 3-1 loss on Saturday to South Dakota State). Three players - Amanda Vialpando, Shelby LeDuff and Ashley Cox - each average over three kills per set and hit at least .200. Emily Borges is the team's full-time setter and checks in with 10.63 assists per set. Megan Patterson leads the back row with 4.00 digs per set. Up front, the Highlanders have their struggles. As a team, they average just 1.68 blocks per set, while opponents have denied them at a 2.45 blocks per set clip.

Who's the Boss?
Bruce Springsteen might have been in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend, but before he took the stage Penn's Lauren Martin put on a show of her own. The senior tri-captain led the Quakers with 3.29 kills per set and saved some of her biggest spikes for Villanova, when she had a match-high 11 kills to lead her squad to an impressive sweep of its Big East foe. Her kills average currently puts her third overall in the Ivy League.

Getting Defensive
Through one weekend of non-conference play, Penn has set itself apart defensively from the rest of the Ivy League. The Quakers lead the Ancient Eight in both opponent's hitting percentage and digs per set. Temple, La Salle and Villanova combined to hit just .143 in the Big 5 Tournament against the Quakers. Yale follows just behind Penn in that category, but no other Ivy team comes within 80 percentage points. Meanwhile, with four players already having 40 or more digs, the Red and Blue easily set the pace with an average of 21.45 digs per set. Yale is second in the league at 19.20 and Brown is a distant third with 15.30 per set.

Live Stats
Follow along with all six games of this weekend's tournament by clicking here. Links will become active once each match gets underway.

Up Next
The Quakers host their second tournament of the season next weekend, the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Penn Invitational. Friday and Saturday will each feature a tripleheader with Penn taking on George Mason on Friday night at 7 p.m., Radford on Saturday morning at 11 a.m., and Rutgers in the tournament finale on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. Contests begin at The Palestra at noon on Friday.