PHILADELPHIA - For the second consecutive year Penn begins their 2010 campaign by hosting the Big 5 Tournament at the Palestra, a round robin they won last year by going a perfect 3-0.
This season the Ivy League champion Quakers open the tournament against Temple, a team they defeated 3-2 last season. The match begins Friday night at 7 p.m. and will be telecast regionally on Comcast. It promises to be competitive after last year's five-set battle. In 2009, Penn won the first two sets but dropped the next two. In the fifth set, down 14-13, then sophomore Logan Johnson served consecutive aces as the Quakers went on to win 16-14. This season the Owls come into the match with an 0-2 record. Senior Ashley Carr leads the team with 29 kills (3.62) while fellow classmate Ariel Pierre leads the defense with 5.38 digs per set.
The Red and Blue play its second match of the year Saturday afternoon, taking on La Salle at 4 p.m. Last year 14 different players saw action in the Quakers' four-set victory over the Explorers. This year, La Salle is 2-3, just one win less than its total all of last season. Junior Jacquelyn Mitrovich is hitting at a .273 clip and leads the steam with 2.18 kills per set. Sophomore Breanna Mazalewski paces the defense with 4.41 digs per set.
In Penn's final match of the weekend, the team faces off against a tough Villanova squad at 7 p.m. The Wildcats are 1-3 this year, with one loss coming to defending national champion Penn State. Sophomore Morgan Petkovich, who redshirted last season after tearing her ACL, leads the team with 38 (3.17) kills while hitting .154. Junior Kim Maroon has 76 digs in just 12 set for an impressive 6.33 digs per set.
The Quakers return nine letterwinners from last year's 23-6 team, including five starters and four All-Ivy performers, as they seek to bring home the program's tenth Ivy League Championship.
Chief among the returnees is senior Megan Tryon. Last season Tryon became the first Ivy setter in eight years to be a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection, as she served as a catalyst for the League's most potent offense. Tryon ranked fourth in the nation, with 11.96 assists per set, and the Ancient Eight by more than an assist per set. Her skilled passing was part of the reason Penn led the Ivies in kills per set (14.56) and finished second in hitting percentage (.219). Tryon also registered 60 or more assists on five occasions and led the team with 26 service aces.
Anchoring the defense in 2010 will be senior libero Madison Wojciechowski. Wojciechowski was dynamic in 2009, leading the league in digs per set (5.57) and finishing seventh in the nation. Her acrobatic digs and consistency on the court helped the Quakers average 17.85 digs per set as a team, good for 11th in the country. Wojciechowski dug at least 20 balls in 17 matches and had five matches with over 30 digs. The senior also showed the ability to pass, finishing second on the team with 79 assists, including ten assists - to go with 31 digs - in a four-set victory over Brown on Halloween.
Offensively, Carr will count upon three returning starters to produce. Senior Julia Swanson, a three-time All-Ivy selection, saw her role as the team's primary hitter diminish last season, but was still one of the most productive players on the team. She finished third on the team in double-doubles (8), kills per set (3.11) and digs per set (2.94).
The team's top returning hitter, Lauren Martin looks to improve on a freshman campaign which saw her named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and first team All-Ivy. The right side hitter was one of the top offensive threats in the Ivy League, finishing the season as one of two players in the top ten in both hitting percentage (second) and kills per set (sixth). Martin hit a team-leading .315 was second on the team with 3.61 kills per set. She also had four matches with at least 20 kills and 18 with in which she reached double digit kills.
Britt Danneman, the final returning starter for the Quakers, solidified her spot on the court with good defense and timely hitting. The senior averaged 1.21 kills per set and .64 blocks per set. In the NCAA tournament she improved on those numbers, hitting .400 in seven sets of action with eight kills and three total blocks.
Junior Logan Johnson, sophomore's Lauren Davis and Amanda Pacheco all made contributions last year and will be expected to step up. Johnson played primarily as a serving specialist, while Davis saw significant time at outside hitter when Swanson was out due to injury. Pacheco started ten matches as a middle blocker, finishing the season with 50 kills (1.32) and second on the team averaging .73 blocks per set (11).
In addition to returning 15 players from a season ago, Carr adds six freshmen into the fold in Kristen Etterbeek, Taylor Permenter, Kristin Schoonover, Dani Shepherd, Susan Stuecheli and Brie Trotter. Sophomore Allison Lyons also joins the squad. An outside hitter, Etterbeek was a finalist for Miss Volleyball of Michigan and should complete for playing time. Schoonover, Shepherd and Stuecheli, are also expected to challenge for time on the court.