Volleyball Ventures To Harvard, Dartmouth This Weekend

PHILADELPHIA - The Penn volleyball team takes to the road this weekend, squaring off against Harvard on Friday night at 7 p.m. before reaching the Ivy's northernmost outpost on Saturday when they face Dartmouth in a 5 p.m. match. Full recaps will be available on PennAthletics.com following the conclusion of each match and live stats from Dartmouth will be available here. For those who want to watch the Quakers live, both Harvard and Dartmouth offer video streaming packages, although subscription fees will apply.

Last Time Out
Penn had chances in each set, but a determined effort from Ivy co-leaders Princeton propelled the Tigers to a 3-0 victory on Friday at The Palestra. Kristen Etterbeek had 14 kills, a match-high, while Meghan Connolly did well receiving the bulk of playing time at the setter position, ending the night with 32 assists. Dani Shepherd continued her ascent in the national digs rankings, racking up 28 on the night to enter this weekend at 6.41 digs per set, third nationally.

Penn Versus
The Quakers have enjoyed much success against both Dartmouth and Harvard. The Red and Blue have won the last 10 meetings with the Big Green, the last Dartmouth victory coming on October 7, 2006. Going further back, Penn has taken 20 of the last 21 against them with Kerry Carr compiling a 21-4 record versus Dartmouth while at the helm of the Penn program. The Big Green supplied Penn with its first Ivy League victory this season, a 3-0 sweep on Sept. 30 that saw three players, Hilary Ash, Connolly and Kristin Schoonover, each reach double-figures in assists, a first-time occurrence in the Carr era.

One night later, Harvard edged Penn in a five set marathon, the Crimson winning 15-13 in the final set. Four Quakers reached double-figures in kills, led by 20 from Lauren Martin and 19 from Kristen Etterbeek. Shepherd had 45 digs in the match to demolish her own previous school record of 41 digs, which she set in September. Despite the loss, Penn holds a 41-9 edge in the all-time series.

Scouting the Crimson
Coming in at 3-5 in the Ivy, Harvard has lost three of its last four contests, but its one win in that stretch was a 3-0 sweep of Columbia that knocked the Lions a game back of the Ivy League leaders. The Crimson generates much of their offense through the outside hitting duo of Taylor Docter and Kristen Casey. Docter, a junior, leads the team with 2.92 kills per set while Casey is right behind at 2.85. At the setter position, Beth Kinsella and Natalie Doyle have split playing time throughout the season; however Doyle has gotten the majority of the action in the month of October. Libero Christine Wu and her 5.51 digs per set provide the anchor to the Harvard defense. That average puts her second in the Ivy League in digs, trailing only Penn's Dani Shepherd. A pair of middle blockers, Teresa Skelly and Sandra Lynne Fryhofer, averages nearly a block a set apiece. The Crimson leads the Ivies in aces with a 1.31 average per set while Docter has picked up 14 so far in 33 sets of league play, first overall.

Scouting the Big Green
Dartmouth enters at fourth place in the Ivy League with a 4-4 record, but has won three of its last four to draw even in the conference. The Big Green very nearly has a clean slate at home, a five-set loss to Columbia the only blemish on a 5-1 record inside Leede Arena. Dartmouth is second in the Ivy League in hitting percentage at .229 and first in opponent hitting percentage (.169), although much of that damage was done in non-conference play. In Ivy-only games, their opponents' hitting percentage goes up to .207, just sixth overall. Annie Villanueva has the best hitting percentage in the conference at .364, and also ranks 10th in kills with 2.74 per set. Despite Villanueva's offensive prowess, it is Madeline Baird who is the leader of the Dartmouth attack. Baird's 3.61 kills per set rank second in the Ivy League and she is third overall in points per set. Amber Bryant is the team's digs leader at 4.49 per set but the Big Green otherwise have had some struggles on the defensive side, coming in last in the Ivies in blocks with just 1.66 per set.

Thanks go out to all those who made Penn's Dig Pink! campaign a success this year. Through donations made online, on-campus, and at last week's match versus Princeton, Penn totaled over $3,000, well above the team's goal of $2,500.

Dani Shepherd maintained her position at third in the nation in digs for the third straight week. The sophomore libero upped her average to 6.41 per set with 28 versus Princeton on Friday night but still trails behind Kim Maroon of Villanova (6.88) and Kasey Elswick of UT-Martin (6.80). With 449 digs so far, Shepherd will move into fourth place in Penn's record book for digs in a season with nine this weekend, passing Cara Thomason's 2004 season (452) and Madison Wojciechowski's 2007 campaign (457). Wojciechowski still will hold the top three places in the record book, but Shepherd will have a total of six regular-season matches left to try to continue past her.

Freshmen Phenoms
Emma White and Meghan Connolly are two of the many freshmen making an impact on the court for Penn this season. White, an outside hitter, is one of the more versatile players on the team, rotating between back row and front row with equal success. Her 2.44 kills per set are fourth on the team while she is second only to Shepherd with 224 digs on the season. Connolly has split time at setter for most of the season, but was given almost total command of the position on Friday, and responded with 32 assists, seven digs, two aces and a pair of blocks. Her 5.60 assists per set put her ninth in the Ivy League.

The Numbers Lie
Everything doesn't quite add up in the two matches between Penn and Princeton this season. Despite Princeton pulling out victories in each, Penn had statistical advantages in a number of categories. The Quakers had edges in kills (100-97), assists (97-92), digs (138-126) and blocks (22-21), and were even with the Tigers in aces (10-10).