PHILADELPHIA - The Penn volleyball team looks to keep things rolling down the stretch as they host their final two home games of the season this weekend at The Palestra. The Quakers won six of seven matches in the month of October and swept all four matches they hosted. Friday night promises to be a big-time test as the Quakers (12-9, 7-3 Ivy) take on the Yale Bulldogs (14-5, 10-0 Ivy). On Saturday, the team will celebrate Senior Night as they look to close out the home campaign on a high note against the Brown Bears (6-14, 2-8 Ivy) beginning at 5 p.m.
Last Time Out
Penn's potential was on full display last weekend in a pair of 3-0 wins over Harvard and Dartmouth. Facing the Crimson on Friday night, Penn neutralized Harvard's outstanding senior hitter, Taylor Docter, holding one of the Ivy League's kills leaders to just seven on the night. Led by Emma White's 13 kills and 19 digs, as well as seven blocks (three solo, four assists) from Susan Stuecheli, the Quakers made up for a five-set loss to the Crimson in September with a 25-17, 25-19, 26-24 win.
With the more difficult of the two matches on the weekend out of the way, Penn didn't fall prey to the trap-game mentality against visiting Dartmouth. With White once again providing a double-double of 11 kills and 11 digs, and Stuecheli taking over the Ivy League lead in blocks with another eight (three solo, five assists) on the night, the Red and Blue swept aside the Big Green, 25-16, 25-15, 25-22. With a combined 52 digs on the weekend, Dani Shepherd earned her second Ivy League Player of the Week award of the 2012 season.
A Look Back
An Alex Caldwell triple-double (13 kills, 20 assists, 12 digs) spurred Penn to a 25-21, 25-15, 23-25, 25-20 win over Brown three weeks ago when the teams met for the first time. White (10 kills, 17 digs) and Kristen Etterbeek (10 kills, 19 digs) each had double-doubles as well for the Red and Blue, while Etterbeek had four of Penn's eight service aces in the match. Shepherd led both squads with 28 digs in the win, while Stuecheli had five block assists.
The next night, Yale knocked off Penn in a match much closer than the 3-0 final margin would indicate. Caldwell came up two kills short of another triple-double, still managing 13 assists and 12 digs. Lauren Martin had seven kills on just 13 attacks, hitting a match-high .538. The first set alone featured 17 ties, the teams trading side-outs all the way until the score was 24-24. The final two points of the set went to Yale in a 26-24 win for the Elis. The story of the second and third sets was all about runs. With Penn leading 18-12 in the second, Yale scored 12 unanswered to put the set out of reach on its way to a 25-19 win. In the third, the teams were tied, 15-15, when the Bulldogs again were suddenly unstoppable, scoring nine straight to take a 24-15 and eventually winning the set, 25-17.
Scouting the Bulldogs
A balanced team seemingly across the board, Yale has used its multiple weapons to compile an 11-match winning streak entering Friday. Five players average more than two kills per set, led by Kelly Johnson's 2.91. Johnson has won or shared Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors four times this season. She is followed closely by Mollie Rogers and her 2.86 kills per set. Defending Ivy League Player of the Year Kendall Polan averages 7.50 assists and 2.29 kills out of the setter position, adding 3.82 digs per set as well. Maddie Rudnick leads the Bulldogs with 4.70 digs per set while Rogers is second on the team at 4.21. Combined, Yale trails only Penn in digs per set nationally with a 19.74 average.
Scouting the Bears
Brown is led by one of the top attackers in the Ivy League, Maddie Lord. Though Penn was able to stop her in the first matchup (six kills, -.107 hitting percentage), she still averages 2.87 kills per set and has over 200 more attacks than her next closest teammate. Alexandra Rieckhoff and Rachele Killian split time at setter, with Rieckhoff's 5.37 assists per set ranking her 10th in the league. At 4.84 digs per set, Kathryn Conner trails only Dani Shepherd in the Ivy League rankings for that category. Brown doesn't pose too much of a threat at the net, ranking last in the Ancient Eight with just 1.55 blocks per set as a team.
Spotlight on the Seniors
Saturday will mark the final home game in the careers of six members of the Penn squad. These six have been a part of two Ivy League championships and subsequent NCAA Tournament berths, as well as a total of 62 wins (38 in the Ivy League) to date. Below are some highlights of their time in the Red and Blue:
Hilary Ash has made 21 appearances for Penn in her career, playing in 53 sets. In the 2011 season, she finished third on the team with 216 assists, averaging nearly five a set. She also recorded 74 digs, three aces and three kills that year.
After three seasons in a Quaker uniform,
Ellyn Barkley made the transition in her senior year to a teaching role within the team, working primarily with Penn's setters. She has been an invaluable asset to the coaching staff throughout the season.
Lauren Davis has played in 88 sets for the Quakers during her career, laying down 98 kills for an average of more than one a set. She has added 54 digs and 18 blocks during her time in the Red and Blue.
One of the three team captains in 2012,
Tori Manix has provided valuable leadership to Penn throughout her four seasons. In her time with the Quakers, Manix has recorded 18 kills and five blocks from the middle blocker position.
The other senior captain of the 2012 Quakers,
Lauren Martin leaves Penn ranked seventh in program history in career kills. The 2009 Ivy League Rookie of the Year as well as a first-team All-Ivy selection, Martin followed up her fantastic freshman season with second-team All-Ivy honors as a sophomore. For her career, she is approaching 1,000 kills along with nearly 200 blocks.
Amanda Pacheco has twice been recognized by the Ivy League in her career at Penn, being named second-team All-Ivy as a sophomore and honorable mention All-Ivy as a junior. As one of the team's main middle blockers for the past three seasons, Pacheco has amassed nearly 700 kills and more than 200 blocks.
Live stats from both of this weekend's matches will be available here. If you would like to watch the Quakers but can't make it to The Palestra, you can subscribe to the Penn Sports Network and view the live streaming video feed here.