Volleyball Preps for Penn Invitational

PHILADELPHIA - Penn returns home to host its second tournament of the non-conference season this weekend, welcoming in Rhode Island, UMBC and William & Mary to the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Penn Invitational. A tripleheader on Friday begins at 12 p.m. inside The Palestra with the Quakers playing their only match of the day at 7 p.m. versus the University of Rhode Island. A tripleheader on Saturday starts at 10 a.m. with Penn taking on UMBC at 1 p.m. and wrapping up the tournament at 4 p.m. with William & Mary.

Last Time Out
Penn fought hard but wrapped up the Rocket Classic, hosted by the University of Toledo, with a 0-3 record. The Quakers opened the tournament on Friday versus #25 Ohio State and had the match tied up at 1-1 before the Buckeyes took the final two sets. A Saturday doubleheader started on the right foot for the Red and Blue who went up 2-0 on Toledo, winning the sets 25-15 and 25-16. That lead wouldn't last, however, as the Rockets claimed the final three sets, including 16-14 in a tightly-played fifth. Penn concluded the weekend against Alabama and again was in a position to grab a big victory, leading 2-1 after three sets. Unfortunately, Alabama took the fourth set, 25-20, and then cruised in the fifth, winning 15-3.

Penn Versus
The Quakers have limited history with two of the three squads they'll face this weekend. In the early days of the Penn program, the Quakers and Rhode Island met quite often, but the series has lapsed since 1983. That season, Penn was 1-2 versus the Rams, and the all-time record between the two going into Friday's match is 4-4.

Likewise, Penn and William & Mary met a handful of times in the 70s and 80s, including in 1987 when Tribe sophomore Kerry Carr helped W&M to a 3-2 victory over the Quakers. The two teams haven't met since the 1998 season, and William & Mary holds a 3-1 lead in the series.

This will be Penn's first-ever meeting with UMBC.

Scouting the Rams
Rhode Island comes into the weekend with a record of 5-4, but are 5-0 on neutral courts. This past weekend the Rams went 0-3 at home in the Art Carmichael Invitational, losing to Columbia, Wisconsin and Boston College. Kayla Wilson and Britta Baarstad lead the offense. Wilson has 141 kills on the season (3.81 per set) while Baarstad is second on the team with 108 (2.92). Annie Nelson will function as the primary setter for the Rams. Of the 422 assists that the team has on the year, Nelson has delivered 322 of them (9.20 per set). Rhode Island enters this weekend with the most aces of any team in the tournament with 60 thus far. The Rams are balanced defensively as the leader in digs, Katherine Kolodziej, averages just 3.69 per set.

Scouting the Retrievers
UMBC enters play at 8-4 but has won eight of its last 10 after falling to nationally-ranked opponents Long Beach State and Washington to start the season. Hannah Schmidt is the catalyst for an offense that is hitting .240 as a team. Schmidt leads the squad with 143 kills (3.58) while Allie Spaay averages 9.43 assists per set. A talented front line has outblocked opponents 95-67 on the season. Ali Goc and Hallie Carter have been beneficiaries in the back, averaging 3.40 and 2.97 digs per set.

Scouting the Tribe
William & Mary stands at 4-4 after a 2-1 weekend at Kent State's Mizuno Open, including a win over the host Golden Flashes. Manon Murray has 111 kills (3.36 per set) to pace the Tribe attack but the team is hitting just .180. Carolina Rivas is the main distributor and averages 8.80 assists per set, although Molly Krull (3.65) will see spot duty in that role as well. Celine Alasomuka's 4.97 digs per set leads the team while Anne Dorff has five solo blocks and 14 block assists at the net.

Following the Quakers
Live stats will be available for every match of the tournament here and you can watch everyQuakers home gamelive via the Penn Sports Network.

Digging Deep
Dani Shepherd established a new school record in digs on Saturday with 41 versus Alabama, breaking the old mark of 40 set by Madison Wojciechowski in the 2008 campaign. The sophomore libero ranks second in the Ivy League with 5.60 digs per set and is in a tie for the lead in aces with 12 on the season.

Block Party
Susan Stuecheli has maintained her intimidating presence at the net early on in the 2011 season. The sophomore MB has seven solo blocks and 22 block assists for a 1.16 blocks per set average. This places her in fourth place in the Ivy League in the category and just .04 blocks out of second place.

Familiar Foes
Penn head coach Kerry Carr (Class of 1990) and William & Mary head coach Melissa Shelton (Class of 1991) were teammates for three seasons when the pair were undergrads at William & Mary. In the three years they were on the court together, the Tribe compiled a record of 75-16.