Volleyball Readies for Harvard and Dartmouth

PHILADELPHIA - The Penn volleyball team (10-9, 5-3 Ivy) celebrates Homecoming weekend and begins a four-match home stand on Friday night when they welcome in the Harvard Crimson for a 7 p.m. showdown. Harvard (8-11, 5-3 Ivy) and Penn are currently tied for third place in the Ivy League. On Saturday, the Quakers will take on Dartmouth (2-16, 1-7 Ivy) at 4 p.m., perfect for football fans exiting Franklin Field after the Penn-Brown game.

Last Time Out
Things looked bleak for the Quakers last Friday night at Princeton. Despite playing well in the first couple sets, Penn trailed 0-2 and were behind, 23-18, late in the third set. A service error from the Tigers opened the door for the Red and Blue just a little, and the Quakers barged through with Elizabeth Horner on serve. Three straight service errors brought Penn back within a point and kills from Kristen Etterbeek and Emma White sandwiched an ace from Horner, completing the comeback for the 25-23 win in the third set. The fourth set was all Penn. Etterbeek nearly had more kills by herself (seven) than the entire Princeton squad (eight) in the fourth, and the Quakers recovered from an early 6-1 deficit to win going away, 25-17.

That set up a dramatic fifth set. Susan Stuecheli went off for three kills, three block assists and a solo block to personally have a hand in seven of Penn's first nine points of the set. The Quakers led, 8-2, when the teams switched sides, but the Tigers had one last rally in them. Trailing 14-11, Princeton used consecutive kills to pull within one at 14-13. Suddenly thrust into an uncomfortable position, Penn was able to escape as the Tigers' final attack of the match sailed wide for an error, giving the Red and Blue the set and the match, 15-13.

A Look Back
Kerry Carr's crew made the road swing through New England on the last weekend of September. Penn started off strong with a 3-0 sweep (25-20, 25-15, 25-18) of Dartmouth on that Friday night. Stuecheli had her top offensive performance of the season with 13 kills on just 17 attempts, hitting .706 for the match. She added three solo blocks and a block assist. On serve, Penn tied a season high for all Ivy League intra-conference contests with nine aces against the Big Green. Of the teams to record nine aces in a single Ivy League matchup this season, the Quakers are the only team to do so while needing just three sets. Dartmouth didn't do itself any favors on serve either, recording eight errors.

The next day, Penn appeared on its way to a perfect weekend away from home after taking a 2-1 lead on Harvard. In the fourth set, the Quakers even led by a score of 13-6. That's when the Crimson fought back into the match with a 6-0 run. The score would remain close throughout the rest of the set but Harvard took the final three points to win, 25-22. The fifth set followed a similar pattern as neither team could wrest away control from the other. The last of Penn's seven attack errors in the set proved costly late in the proceedings and a kill from Caroline Walters on the subsequent point gave Harvard the 16-25, 25-15, 17-25, 25-22, 15-13 win. Four Quakers reached double-figures in kills and in digs, led by White's double-double of 16 and 16.

Scouting the Crimson
Senior Taylor Docter leads Harvard and ranks third in the Ivy League in kills this season with 3.19 per set. Though she's the focus of the Crimson's offense and has more than 800 attacks on the season, she hits at a clip of just .171. Meanwhile, the other three main attackers on the club all hit over .270, led by the sophomore Walters' hitting percentage of .372, which ranks second in the Ivy League and among the top 50 in the nation. Caroline Holte comes in as the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week after producing six kills and nine blocks in a win on Friday against Dartmouth. She ranks sixth in the Ivy League in blocks per set (1.04). Two setters, senior Beth Kinsella and freshman Hannah Schmidt, split duties at that position with Kinsella just out in front with an average of 5.57 assists to Schmidt's 4.71. Sophomore Kristen Casey leads a balanced defense with 3.67 digs per set.

Scouting the Big Green
Entering the weekend on an eight-game slide since defeating Harvard in the Ivy League season opener, Dartmouth will rely on the three-pronged attack of sophomore Alex Schoenberger (2.75 kills per set), freshman Paige Caridi (2.39) and junior Elisa Scudder (2.16) to do its damage. Schoenberger is 10th in the Ivy League in kills while Scudder is 10th in the league in hitting percentage (.307). Freshman setter Kayden Cook ranks fourth in the Ivies in assists per set (7.49). Holly Harper tops the team in digs with 3.28 per set. As a team, the Big Green rank last in the Ancient Eight in hitting percentage (.136), opponents hitting percentage (.256), assists (9.24) and kills (10.17). They are second to last in blocks (1.67) and digs (14.55).

Twice as Nice
With her first career double-double against the Tigers on Friday night (10 kills, 10 blocks), Stuecheli became the second Quaker to win Ivy League Player of the Week honors this season, joining Dani Shepherd who won the award back on Oct. 9. Stuecheli shared the award with Megan Gaughn of Columbia.

Stuecheli's 10 blocks (three solo, seven assists) tied the single match season-high for all Ivy League players. She now ranks third in the league at 1.12 blocks per set, just barely trailing Rachel D'Epagnier of Cornell, who is in second with 1.13 per set. With 18 solo blocks, Stuecheli tops the Ivies with only D'Epagnier (15) anywhere near her in the category.

Still on Top
Even though Friday was an off-night by Penn's high standards, the Quakers still comfortably lead the nation in digs with 21.09 per set. Second place Yale trails behind with 19.91. Shepherd holds on to her individual lead in the category for yet another week, coming into Friday's match with an average of 6.38 digs per set, ahead of Chattanooga's Paula Passmore (6.20) for the top spot in Division I.

Shepherd recently sat down with the Penn Sports Network for the first in a year-long series of student-athlete profiles that will highlight some of the exceptional Quaker players and performances throughout 2012-13. Click here to watch.

Live Stats/Video

PennAthletics.com is your best bet for keeping up with the Quakers if you can't make it to The Palestra this weekend. Click here for the latest stats in real-time, and here to subscribe or watch the Penn Sports Network, which will have HD-quality video of the Quakers facing the Crimson and Big Green.