PHILADELPHIA - Penn takes its first road trip of the season this weekend, traveling to the University of Toledo for three matches in the Rocket Classic on Friday and Saturday.
The Quakers open the weekend on Friday at 5 p.m. against #25 Ohio State. Saturday begins at 10 a.m. when the Red and Blue faces host Toledo, followed by a 5 p.m. showdown with Alabama.
Last Time Out
For the second year in a row, Penn took second place at the Big 5 Tournament with a 2-1 mark against Temple, La Salle and Villanova. The season started on Friday with a 3-1 win against Temple (25-16, 25-16, 22-25, 25-16) that was highlighted by 16 kills from Lauren Martin. Amanda Pacheco added 10 kills and Susan Stuechli was busy on defense with three solo blocks and four block assists in the match. Saturday's first match was a clean sweep of La Salle, 25-15, 26-24, 25-22. Freshman Emma White saw her first significant action of her career in the match and impressed with a double-double of 10 kills and 11 digs. She also added two of the team's six aces as the Quakers improved to 2-0 on the year. The tournament finale also served as a championship game between Penn and Villanova. Behind the relentless attack of Morgan Petkovich (23 kills), Villanova ground out a four-set victory to give Penn its first loss of the season. Martin had 14 kills as she and Pacheco were named to the All-Tournament Team.
About the Buckeyes
Ohio State enters the tournament ranked 25th nationally with a 4-3 record. All three defeats came last weekend in the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic to teams ranked ahead of the Buckeyes in the polls: #12 Hawaii, #8 UCLA and #22 Long Beach State. Emily Danks, a junior right side hitter, leads the Buckeyes with 4.35 points per set. Junior outside hitter Mari Hole is the team leader in kills with 3.52 per set with Danks just behind her at 3.48. Much like the Quakers, Ohio State rotates two setters in and out. Junior Amanda Peterson receives the most playing time and leads the squad with 9.63 assists per set, but freshman Taylor Sherwin (6.75) will see plenty of action as well. Danks also is a danger with the serve, recording nine aces thus far. Defensively, senior libero Sarah Mignin has 97 digs (4.22 per set) while an active front line is led by senior middle blocker Kelli Barhorst, ranked eighth in the Big Ten with 1.22 blocks per set.
About the Rockets
Toledo begins the weekend at 3-3 and also came up empty in a tournament last weekend, the Spartan Showcase, dropping matches to Cleveland State, St. John's, and host Michigan State. Sophomores Lauren Rafdal and Becca Reidy lead the Rocket offense with 3.11 and 3.05 kills per set, respectively. Senior Kassie Kadera handles the setting duties for Toledo and her 12.50 assists per set rank second in the MAC. Junior libero McCall Paynter tops the team in digs with 63 (3.15).
About the Crimson Tide
Alabama stands at 4-3 after a 3-0 start to its season at home. This past weekend in Dallas yielded a win over Lamar but also a pair of defeats, to TCU and SMU. The unquestioned offensive force on the team is junior outside hitter Kayla Fitterer. Her 134 kills are almost double the next highest total on the team. In 29 sets played, she is averaging 4.62 kills per set while hitting .262. The Crimson Tide are in the remarkable position of starting two setters and enjoying identical success from each. Stephanie Riley and Andrea McQuaid each have dished out 169 assists through seven matches for a 5.83 assists per set average. Libero Kelsey Anderson leads the team in digs with 140 (4.83), with Fitterer second at 3.48 per set.
These will be Penn's first matches versus any of the three schools.
Following the Quakers
For those who want to follow the Penn volleyball team all weekend, live stats will be available for every match on our website. Toledo offers streaming video of every match at its website, www.utrockets.com; a $9.95 monthly subscription fee will apply.
Right Foot Forward
Penn has won its last four season openers dating back to the 2008 season. The stretch began with a 3-0 romp over Fairfield, but the last three years they have come courtesy of Temple in the Big 5 Tournament.
Part of Penn's success in the Big 5 Tournament could be attributed to a service game that consistently kept opponents off-guard and gave away fewer free points. The Red and Blue delivered 14 service aces in their 11 sets as opposed to 10 aces from the opposition. In addition, the Quakers only had 25 errors on serve while opponents had 33.
For the Sake of Comparison
Juniors Lauren Martin and Amanda Pacheco were honored as second team All-Ivy last season. Martin averaged an even 3.00 kills per set in 2010 while Pacheco was second in the league with a .332 hitting percentage. The pair has upped the ante so far this season, as Martin leads the team with 3.45 kills per set and Pacheco is swinging at a .407 clip.
Big Shoes to Fill
It won't be easy to replace the school's all-time digs leader, Madison Wojciechowski, but libero Dani Shepherd has more than double the number of digs of anyone else on the team thus far and reached double digits in the category in each match last weekend. Dating back to last season, the sophomore has recorded at least 10 digs in six of the last seven outings.
Seven freshmen join the fray for Penn in the 2011 campaign, and four have already earned a starting nod at some point. Emma White and Meghan Connolly have had the most immediate impact but Elizabeth Horner, Kendall Turner and Trina Ohms have also contributed. White is second on the team with 3.00 kills per set while Connolly is one of two setters seeing significant playing time, averaging 5.73 assists per set. Horner started every match of the Big 5 Tournament and chipped in 13 kills and five block assists. Turner and Ohms have combined for two solo blocks and three block assists.