PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania volleyball team will face a pair of difficult tests this weekend, as the Quakers hit the road to take on the defending Ivy League champions, Yale, on Friday (7 p.m.) and Brown (5 p.m.) on Saturday. Both matches are scheduled to be broadcast live on the Ivy League Digital Network.
The Quakers (9-8, 3-2) are coming off a split of two matches last weekend at The Palestra. Penn kicked off its annual Dig Pink! Weekend with a 3-1 (26-24, 20-25, 25-19, 28-26) win over Cornell last Friday. Senior Alexis Genske racked up her seventh double-double of the season in the triumph, recording 16 kills and 12 digs. Classmate Ronnie Bither continued her strong play out of the setter position, dishing out 38 assists and recording 17 digs.
Fellow captains Alex Caldwell and Michellie McDonald-O’Brien were also stellar in the victory, combining for 18 kills. Caldwell hit a team-best .391 for the match, while McDonald-O’Brien added a squad-high five block assists.
With the win over the Big Red, the Quakers surpassed last season’s win total with nine matches still remaining this season.
The Quakers were unable to keep the momentum going on Saturday, dropping the first two sets to Columbia and ultimately falling 3-1 (15-25, 22-25, 25-20, 19-25). Genske and Bither once again posted double-doubles. Genske picked up 16 kills and 17 digs, while Bither chipped in 34 assists and 10 digs.
Bither continues to lead the Ivy League in assists per set (9.23), while Genske has climbed into fifth in kills per set (3.11). Genske has totaled at least five kills in every match this season, and has reached double digits in 11 contests.
Scouting the Bulldogs...
The defending Ivy League champions enter Friday having dropped back-to-back conference matches for the first time since 2010. The Bulldogs, who have either won or shared the Ivy crown each of the last five seasons, were defeated by Dartmouth last Friday, 3-1, and then swept by Harvard the following day. Prior to last weekend, Yale had been riding a four-match winning streak -- picking up wins over Cal State-Fullerton, Brown, Columbia, and Cornell. Overall, the Bulldogs hold an 8-6 record and are tied with the Quakers in the Ivy standings with a mark of 3-2.
Senior Kelly Johnson, a first team All-Ivy selection last year, leads the offense with 189 kills this season. Her 3.49 kills per set ranks second in the conference. Johnson also averages 2.06 digs per set and has posted five double-doubles. Sophomore Kelsey Crawford has been a large part of Johnson’s success, ranking third in the Ivy League in assists per set (8.57).
Series History: The Quakers lead the all-time series with Yale, 34-25. The Bulldogs, however, have won the last eight matchups dating back to 2010.
Last Season: En route to capturing the Ivy League championship, Yale won both meetings against Penn. Caldwell had the most success against the Bulldogs, putting together averages of 6.5 kills, 10.0 digs and 8.0 assists in the two matches. Johnson notched a double-double of 15 kills and 11 digs in Yale’s victory in New Haven.
Scouting the Bears...
Brown comes into the weekend with an overall record of 8-8* and a 2-3 mark in the conference. Like Yale, the Bears were also winless last weekend -- dropping matches to Dartmouth and Harvard. Both of Brown’s conference victories have come at home, sweeping Cornell and winning a five-set thriller against Columbia.
Freshman Sabrina Stillwell has burst onto the scene in her debut season in Providence, ranking second in the conference in total kills (201) and third in kills per set (3.47). She has also been extremely consistent, as her .306 hitting percentage ranks third in the league. Stillwell has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week three times this season. Sophomore Melissa Cairo has shored up the Bears’ defense, averaging a league-high 4.89 digs per set.
*Prior to the showdown with Penn, Brown will face Rhode Island on Wednesday in its final non-conference match of the season and host Princeton on Friday.
Series History: Penn leads the all-time series with Brown, 47-19.
Last Season: The Bears and Quakers split their two matches, with each team notching a five-set win at home. In the contest at Brown, Penn jumped out a 2-0 lead but couldn’t hold on. Genske led the way in the loss with 19 kills and 20 digs. Caldwell registered her fifth triple-double of 2014 with 15 kills, 26 assists, and 10 digs. Genske also paced the Quakers in their win over Brown last season, posting 14 kills and 20 digs. McDonald-O’Brien tallied 11 kills, while hitting a team-high .417.