The Quakers open the tournament on Friday night at 7 p.m. against the Temple Owls, a team they have won three straight against dating back to the 2007 campaign. Last season in the Big 5 Tournament, Penn swept its opening match with the Owls by a score of 25-20, 25-20, 25-21. The Owls enter this weekend's matches with a 1-1 record after having one match of the Temple Invitational cancelled due to Hurricane Irene. Inits season opener, Temple defeated Stony Brook 3-2 (25-17, 25-18, 18-25, 20-25, 18-16) behind a career-high 22 kills with no attacking errors from sophomore Elyse Burkert. In Saturday's finale, the Owls were swept by South Carolina, 15-25, 22-25, 18-25. Sophomore outside hitter Gabriella Matautia and freshman setter Tiffany Connatser each recorded double-doubles in both matches.
Matches at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. begin the day on Saturday before Penn returns to the court at 4 p.m. to face La Salle. After a season-opening sweep of St. Peter's, the Explorers have dropped three straight to enter the weekend at 1-3. La Salle took the opening set from Penn in its match last season, but the Quakers rebounded with dominating second and third sets in a 17-25, 25-14, 25-12, 25-21 romp. Overall, Penn has taken 11 of 12 from the Explorers in matches held in The Palestra. Junior Kelly Scanlon leads the La Salleoffense with 35 kills, 28 of themcoming in the last two matches. Kourtney Clark leads the team in assists with 8.62 per set, while defensive specialist Breanna Mazalewski paces the team with 4.31 digs per set.
The final match of the tournament comes Saturday night at 7 p.m. when the Red and Blue take on the Villanova Wildcats. Last year marked the second straight time that the two teams went to five sets against each other, with Villanova eking out a 22-25, 25-15, 20-25, 25-21, 15-12 victory to claim the Big 5 title. The Wildcats are 1-2 early on in the season, having defeated Maryland 3-1 before back-to-back losses versus Tennessee and Ohio at the Lady Vols Classic. Krista Andersen enters the weekend averaging 3.50 kills per set to set the offensive tone. Another freshman setter, Allie DiBernardo, dishes out 10.25 assists per set, while Kim Maroon racked up 78 digs over the three matches (6.50).
The Quakers bring back eight letterwinners and four starters off their 2010 Ivy League championship squad that finished 17-11, but will have to deal with many key losses as well. The three non-returning starters, Megan Tryon, Julia Swanson and Madison Wojciechowski, were all named first-team All-Ivyand Tryon was honored as the Ivy League Player of the Year. Tryon's award marked the second straight year that the Penn program produced that particular award-winner, following Elizabeth Semmens in 2009.
The cupboard is far from bare, however. Lauren Martin returns for her junior season after garnering second-team All-Ivystatus in 2010. The former Ivy League Rookie of the Year averaged an even three kills per set last season and contributed 58 blocks. Joining Martin on the second team was Amanda Pacheco who also is back for her junior campaign. Pacheco ended last season with a 2.54 kills-per-set average while her .332 hitting percentage led the team and was second in the Ivies.
Another underclassman looking to step up this season is sophomore Susan Stuecheli. Stuecheli's 99 blocks led the Ivy League and her 1.04 per set average was third in the conference. This season's co-captains are senior Logan Johnson and junior Sarah Cobbinah. Johnson is the team's returning digs leader and will be the focal point of the Quakers' defense. Cobbinah saw limited action a year ago but exploded for five kills and a block versus Ohio in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. A leap in production from her will do wonders for the Penn attack.
Many newcomers also enter the fray for Head Coach Kerry Carr. A total of seven freshmen arrive in this year's recruiting class: Meghan Connolly, Elizabeth Horner, Trina Ohms, Kristina Pelekoudas, Taylor Smith, Kendall Turner and Emma White.
Big 5 Tournament
La Salle vs. Villanova, 4 p.m. (Fri.)
Temple at Penn, 7 p.m. (Fri.)
Temple vs. La Salle, 10 a.m. (Sat.)
Temple vs. Villanova, 1:30 p.m. (Sat.)
La Salle at Penn, 4 p.m. (Sat.)
Villanova at Penn, 7 p.m. (Sat.)