PHILADELPHIA – For the Penn women’s volleyball team, working together this preseason has been essential, not only on the court but in the water as well.
As part of a preseason team bonding trip, coach Kerry Carr took her players for a lesson in dragon boat racing and paddling with the Philadelphia Flying Phoenix Dagon Boat team on the Schuylkill River. Carr saw the trip and the experience as a great metaphor for what her team hopes to accomplish this season.
“We learned that in a dragon boat you are only as goodas your team. If someone is out of time, then you actually hold the boat back, rather than drive it forward, no matter how strong you are. It is a great metaphor for our volleyball team as volleyball is also the ultimate team sport as everyone relies on everyone else....the hitter depends on the setter...the setter on the passer, the defense on the block.”
Carr knows firsthand the teamwork required to paddle the boats. She spent the past summer racing as a member of the Against the Wind dragon boat team, a group made up of breast cancer survivors and was thankful for her team’s experience.
"I also wanted to put in a big thank you to the Philadelphia Flying Phoenix Dragon Boat team, and Coach Diane Cloutier along with 6 other members of the PFP dragon boat team who coached us and trained us how to paddle and race that day."
Carr hopes the lesson in teamwork will translate to the court, as the Red and Blue return 11 letterwinners from last year’s team. In 2009, The Quakers finished tied for third in the Ivy League with a 9-5 mark, including wins in eight of their final ten Ivy matches. Carr sees the potential for a Ivy League championship run with the returning players and a strong group of freshman.
“We were close last year, and we are so much stronger after preparing and building over the last 9 months. We have gotten stronger and quicker, as well as really come together as a team with one goal in mind, and we are so much more prepared than last year.”
In 2009, the Quakers will be led by a group of six seniors, in Natalie Drucker, Ashley Hawkins, Anne Magnuson, Shannon Moody, Mary Russell and Elizabeth Semmens. While healthy, all six saw significant playing time a season ago, as five of the six appeared in 24 of a possible 26 matches. Drucker, the lone player not to do so, missed time with an injury. However, she was fifth on the team with 197 kills as a sophomore.
In addition to the seniors, the Red and Blue also expect to get significant contributions from their two returning All-Ivy performers, in junior outside hitter Julia Swanson and fellow classmate and libero Madison Wojciechowski.
Swanson was the Quakers 20th first-team All-Ivy selection a season ago after racking up 359 kills, while Wojciechowski broke her own school record for digs in a season with 511 in 2008. The second-team All-Ivy performer has remarkable 968 digs after just two seasons with the Red and Blue.
However, Penn isn’t solely relying on their returning players as Coach Carr brought in eight freshmen, many of whom could make an immediate impact.
“I am so excited about our incoming freshmen. It will be hard to challenge for a starting spot with so many returning players, but this is one of the most talented recruiting classes I have ever had, so I expect them to assimilate quickly and push for playing time in the near future.”
The Red and Blue kick off their season a week from Friday when they host the Big 5 Tournament on September 4-5 and welcome in neighboring foes La Salle, Temple and Villanova. The Quakers take on Temple at 7:00 p.m. Friday night in their first match of the season.