The 41st season of University of Pennsylvania volleyball will begin this weekend, as the Quakers travel to Howard University and the University of Maryland to participate in the District of Columbia Classic. The four-match weekend will consist of contests against Maryland and George Mason in Washington D.C. on Saturday, and matchups against Howard and Western Carolina in College Park on Sunday.
Penn Head Coach Kerry Carr returns for her 18th season patrolling the sidelines, looking to get her squad back to the top of the Ivy League. Carr has five conference championships to her name during her tenure at Penn, the most recent coming in 2010.
Penn will be led this season by five senior captains, including two that are coming off All-Ivy League seasons. Alexis Genske, now a captain for a second consecutive year, received Ivy League honorable mention recognition in 2014, while Alex Caldwell was named to the Ancient Eight second team. Genske led the Quakers with 282 kills (3.13 kills per set), finishing fourth in the Ivy League. The outside hitter also added 254 digs and racked up nine double-doubles last season. Caldwell, meanwhile, paced the team in service aces with 17 and finished second in kills (195), kills per set (2.19), and assists (423). Caldwell also contributed a total of 227 digs, finishing third on the team.
Ronnie Bither, Jasmine DeSilva and Michellie McDonald-O'Brien round out the senior class, and all are expected to make an impact this season. DeSilva missed almost all of last season after suffering an injury in the season opener against Colgate. As a sophomore, DeSilva appeared in 98 sets and ranked second on the team in both kills (223) and kills per set (2.28).
Penn will have eight newcomers to the program this season in the form of freshmen Taylor Cooper, Grace James, Courtney Quinn, Julia Tulloh, Brooke Behrbaum, Kynnedie Maloz, Nicole Profit and Brigit McDermott.
Penn comes into the weekend as the only team in the tournament field that has yet to play in a match this season. Under Carr, the Quakers are 8-9 all-time in season openers including a 3-0 win over Colgate last year at The Palestra.
Inside the Matchups...
Maryland – Saturday | 12 p.m.
Maryland, the Quakers’ first opponent of the season, is off to the most successful start of any team in the field - entering the weekend with a perfect 4-0 record. The Terrapins have dropped just one game in picking up wins over Morgan State, Duquesne, Hofstra and Kent State. Senior Adreene Elliott has been a force offensively, leading the squad with 2.77 kills per set while hitting .281.
Series History: Penn leads 6-4
George Mason – Saturday | 5 p.m.
George Mason enters the weekend following a solid showing at the D.C. Volleyball Challenge last weekend. The Patriots picked up wins over Georgetown and Howard to open their season before falling to American in the final match of the tournament. Sophomore Sydney Fanoga and freshman Erica Partridge were each named to the all-tournament team after Fanoga registered 23 kills and Partridge racked up a team-high 41 digs.
Series History: Penn leads 3-1
Western Carolina – Sunday | 10 a.m.
Western Carolina brandishes a 2-2 record so far this season and will look to build momentum after posting a 3-0 win over UNC Asheville on Tuesday. Sophomore Jo-Leigh Vervelde led the way in the win over the Bulldogs, compiling her second career triple-double with 15 kills, 21 assists and 11 digs. The Catamounts opened the season with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Georgia State.
Series History: Penn leads 2-0
Howard – Sunday | 5 p.m.
Howard looks to put its first tally in the win column this weekend, entering Saturday with an 0-4 record so far this season. Like George Mason, the Bison also competed at the D.C. Volleyball Challenge last weekend – falling to the likes of Georgetown, American and the Patriots. Howard also dropped a mid-week matchup with Loyola (Md.) on Tuesday.
Series History: Penn leads 4-0