PHILADELPHIA - With the Ivy League season on the horizon, the Penn volleyball team travels to Delaware on Wednesday night for one last tune-up before the Quakers host Princeton this weekend. The match with the Blue Hens starts at 7 p.m. from the Carpenter Sports Building in Newark.
Last Time Out
The Quakers closed out their final regular-season tournament with a 1-2 mark in the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Penn Invitational. The Red and Blue defeated George Mason on Friday night, but were felled on Saturday by Radford and Rutgers to finish in third place out of the four teams. Dani Shepherd was named to the All-Tournament team after piling up 97 digs over 12 sets.
Scouting the Blue Hens
Qualifiers for four of the past five NCAA Tournaments, including last year when it advanced to the second round before being knocked off by Penn State, Delaware came into 2012 with a ton of recent program success but have gotten off to a rocky start in this campaign. The Blue Hens enter Wednesday with a record of 3-9, with eight of their losses being 3-0 sweeps. Still, Delaware returns some familiar faces from the past few years. The outside hitting duo of Katie Hank (2.47 kills per set) and Alissa Alker (2.40) return to lead the offense. Last season, in a Blue Hens victory over Penn, those two as well as Chelsea Lawrence each recorded at least 10 kills apiece. But youth abounds in other positions on the court. Freshman Mackenzie Olsen averages 9.12 assists per set in the setter position, and another freshman, Ariel Shonk, leads the back row defense with 4.90 digs per set.
Making the Leap
Just one week ago, junior libero Dani Shepherd was ranked 15th in the nation in digs in the NCAA's first statistical release of the 2012 season. What a difference a week makes. After those 97 digs at the Penn Invitational, Shepherd has shot to the top of the charts, ranking first in all of Division I in digs per set at 6.48. Tessa McGill of IPFW is second at 6.20, with no other player in the nation cracking the six dig per set barrier.
Shepherd isn't alone on defense, either. Sophomore Emma White enters Wednesday's match at 4.82 digs per set, which puts her 68th in the country. All told, the Quakers average an astounding 22.52 digs as a team, ranking them first in the nation in the category, leading second-place Mercer (19.28) by more than three digs per set.
A number of Quakers have reached or are approaching career milestones. In Saturday's match against Rutgers, junior outside hitter Kristen Etterbeek, one of the defensive stalwarts helping Penn to its top national ranking, collected her 500th career dig. White has already racked up 484 digs in less than two seasons in the Red and Blue and could possibly reach 500 on Wednesday night. Offensively, junior middle blocker Susan Stuecheli has accumulated 398 kills in her career and will likely hit No. 400 against the Blue Hens.
With this being an away match, the Penn Sports Network will not have a streaming broadcast. However, Delaware offers streaming content of its own, which you can access here. In addition,live stats for Wednesday's match are available on PennAthletics.com by clicking here. For Penn volleyball fans scattered around the world, Saturday's home match against Princeton will give you the chance to watch the Quakers on the Penn Sports Network for free! Follow this link and select "Free Trial" to view the match with the Tigers.
Saturday's match with Princeton is not just the Ivy League opener. An annual tradition for the Quakers since 2008, Penn will be wearing pink on Saturday in support of the Side-Out Foundation and its Dig Pink campaign. In the ongoing fight against breast cancer, the Penn volleyball team is trying to raise $5,000 in 2012. As a whole, the Side-Out Foundation has raised more than $250,000 with a goal of $1.5 million. The Quakers will be wearing special pink warm-ups and uniforms at the game, and you can enter on-site for a chance to take home one of the Under Armour warm-up shirts, personalized with Penn's Split "P" logo on the back.
If you would like to help the Penn volleyball team reach its donation goal, please click here.