PHILADELPHIA - The Penn volleyball team makes its New York swing this weekend, traveling to take on Cornell in a 7 p.m. match on Friday night, before closing the weekend in New York City versus Columbia at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Full recaps will be available on PennAthletics.com following the conclusion of each match and live stats from Columbia will be available here. For those who want to watch the Quakers live, both Cornell and Columbia offer video streaming packages, although subscription fees will apply.
Last Time Out
Playing its first two home Ivy League matches of the year, Penn came out flying and breezed past Dartmouth on Friday night, winning 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-17). Freshman Emma White's 13 kills and .310 hitting percentage led the Penn attack and Lauren Martin added 10 of her own. The homestand came to a close with a dejecting 3-2 loss versus Harvard (21-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-20, 13-15). Martin reached 20 kills for the third time this season and Kristen Etterbeek and White each set career highs with 19 and 14 kills, respectively. Libero Dani Shepherd continued her assault on the record books with 45 digs, smashing her previous school record of 41 set earlier this season versus Alabama.
The Quakers have enjoyed a healthy dose of success against both the Big Red and the Lions throughout the years. Penn leads the all-time series with Cornell by a 35-23 margin and has taken the last five contests in the series. In the past two seasons, the Red and Blue have swept Cornell three times, while rallying from a 2-0 deficit to win three sets in a row on the road during the 2009 championship campaign.
Those numbers pale in comparison to what Penn has done to Columbia in the past. The Quakers hold a 35-1 edge all-time versus the Lions, the only blemish on the record coming in 2005 in five sets. Eleven wins in a row have followed, with Columbia winning only four sets during that time. Of those four, three occurred a year ago when Penn dropped the third set to the Lions on the road and then had to rally from a 2-1 deficit at home for an eventual 3-2 decision.
Scouting the Big Red
Cornell enters the weekend with just two wins on the season, both coming against schools from the MEAC, Delaware State and North Carolina A&T. The lone winless team within the Ivy League, the Big Red rank at the bottom of the Ivies in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, assists and kills. A three-pronged attack features Madeleine Przybyl, Kelly Marble and Janel Forte all with 100 kills or more so far this season. Another attacker, Rachel D'Epagnier, has just 48 kills but a team-high hitting percentage of .307. Although Kelly Reinke will occasionally see spot duty at the setter position, senior Jordan Reeder receives the bulk of the playing time, averaging 6.84 assists per set. Blocking is a strength for the team as they rank in the top half of the Ivies with 2.05 blocks per set as a team. Alice Cope (1.19) is the team leader while D'Epagnier is second at 1.12 per set.
Scouting the Lions
Columbia (8-5, 2-1 Ivy) begins the weekend on the heels of a tough, five-set loss to Yale that kept the Bulldogs in a first-place tie with Princeton while the Lions slipped to third. Since bottoming out with a three-win season in 2007, Columbia has improved at a steady pace, rising to six, then 12, then 16 wins a year ago. This year's version is predicated around a strong defense that ranks first in the Ivy League and 31st nationally in blocks (2.55 per set) and is 42nd nationally in digs (16.63). Offensively, junior outside hitter Megan Gaughn's 160 kills are nearly double the total of anyone else on the team. At 3.40 kills per set, she is fourth in the Ivy League, although hitting at just .174. Dual setters are likely on each side of the net when the Quakers and Lions meet. Columbia relies most heavily on sophomore Colleen Brennan, whose 6.98 assists per set are sixth in the Ivy League; however junior Kelsey Musselman is likely to get some time on the court as well. Charlee Dyroff averages 4.93 digs per set to lead the team on the defensive side while Savannah Fletcher, Heather Braunagel and Monique Roberts each contribute over a block a set apiece.
Helped by her school-record 45 digs versus Harvard, sophomore Dani Shepherd now sits in fourth place in the NCAA in digs per set, trailing only Kasey Elswick of UT-Martin (6.66), Kim Maroon of Villanova (6.56), and Lena Oliver of Western Michigan (6.44). Shepherd's 6.28 average leads the Ivy League by nearly one full dig per set over Princeton's Hillary Ford, and the Quakers now rank 23rd nationally in the category.
Green with Envy
Dartmouth entered Friday's match versus the Quakers with a league-best .240 hitting percentage as a team, but with just 30 kills and 18 attack errors in over 100 attempts, the Big Green limped to just a .104 clip in Penn's three-set sweep. The Red and Blue narrowly missed out on holding Dartmouth to a season low in that category, as the Big Green hit .103 in a four-set loss to Army.
Although entering the weekend at just 5-8 overall, Penn's record is a poor indication of how competitive they've been throughout the season. The Quakers are 0-4 thus far in five-set matches, including 0-2 in the Ivy League. Versus both Toledo and Harvard, Penn was ahead late in the match but couldn't close it out, leading the Rockets 14-13 and the Crimson 11-7.
Compare this to Princeton and Yale, the co-leaders of the Ivy League, who are a combined 7-1 in five-set matches. Princeton has won all three of its conference matchups to date by a 3-2 margin, and Yale joined in by downing Brown in five on Saturday evening.
The use of three setters against Dartmouth created a statistical anomaly that hasn't been seen in the Kerry Carr era here at Penn. Hilary Ash, Meghan Connolly and Kristin Schoonover each reached double-figure assists in the match, with Ash and Connolly distributing 12 apiece while Schoonover chipped in with an additional 11.
Four the Last Time
Saturday's marathon match with Harvard featured four players (Lauren Martin, Kristen Etterbeek, Emma White, Amanda Pacheco) with double-digit kills and four with double-digit digs (Dani Shepherd, White, Etterbeek, Kristin Schoonover), marking the first time this has occurred in 2011. Although a remarkable feat, one doesn't have to go back very far to find another instance of the Quakers pulling this off. In last season's must-win Ivy League finale at Princeton, Penn again had four players with more than 10 kills, including Martin, Pacheco and Susan Stuecheli off this year's squad, plus five who had over 10 digs, including Shepherd and Logan Johnson.