PHILADELPHIA - Penn volleyball concludes its 2011 season this weekend at home on Friday facing Columbia at 7 p.m., followed by a Senior Night showdown against Cornell on Saturday at 5 p.m. Although the year won't end with Penn's third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, two wins would give the Quakers a winning record in the second half of Ivy League play and the possibility of an upper-division finish. Live stats for both games will be available here, and streaming video will be available through the Penn Sports Network.
Last Time Out
The Quakers split its final road weekend of the season, falling in three sets at Yale (20-25, 22-25, 8-25), before rebounding for a hard-fought four-set win at Brown the next night (25-23, 23-25, 25-16, 25-19). Emma White had a career high 19 kills and added in 19 digs in the win for her eighth double-double of her freshman season. Kristin Schoonover had 30 assists in her second game back from injury and Dani Shepherd led both teams with 26 digs and three aces in the match.
Penn Vs. Columbia
The Quakers hold a 35-2 edge all-time over the Lions, but one of the two losses came five weeks ago as Penn dropped a see-saw affair, 3-2 (27-29, 25-21, 20-25, 25-19, 13-15). Kristen Etterbeek and Amanda Pacheco both set career highs in the match, as Etterbeek smashed 22 kills and Pacheco had 20. The Quakers lost a first set that featured 15 ties and three lead changes but quickly established control and were never seriously threatened in tying the match at one set apiece. After being tied at 19-19 in the third, Columbia got on a roll and won six of the last seven points to go up 2-1. Again the Quakers rallied, turning a one-point lead into a five-point advantage midway through the fourth and breezing to the win. Despite falling behind by four points early on in the final set, Penn had one last push in them, tying the set up at 9-9. Columbia scored the next two points to go up 11-9 and the teams traded sideouts the rest of the way as the Lions held on for the win.
Penn Vs. Cornell
Penn leads the all-time series with the Big Red by a 36-23 margin, and have won the last six in the series. Last month, Cornell supplied Penn with its first road win of the season, a 3-1 decision (22-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-17) that brought Penn to 2-2 in the Ivies. Pacheco had a match-high 13 kills and hit .324 while Etterbeek led Penn with 24 digs, the only match this season that someone other than Shepherd had the outright lead in the category.
Scouting the Lions
Columbia comes into the final weekend of Ivy League play at 9-3 in conference, 15-8 overall. While a loss or Yale win eliminates them from contention, this season continues the turnaround started in 2009 after the 2006-2008 seasons yielded one win for the Lions in Ivy League play. The 2009 team won three conference games and they followed in 2010 by going 8-6. Columbia has four of the top ten attackers in the Ivies based on hitting percentage. Savannah Fletcher (3rd, .343), Heather Braunagel (4th, .336), Madeline Rumer (6th, .317) and Monique Roberts (7th, .291) make up that group, but it's actually Megan Gaughn who leads the team in kills. Gaughn is fifth in the Ivy League with 3.37 kills per set and fourth in overall points. Defensively, Columbia is the top blocking team in the Ivy League at 2.28 per set. Fletcheraverages 1.20 blocks per set, which leads the league, and Braunagel isn't far behind at 1.02 per set, good for third. The Lions are only sixth in the league in digs per set with 17.40, however, that number is good enough to put them at 29th in the nation.
Scouting the Big Red
Cornell enters the final two games of the 2011 season at 3-9 in the league and looking to avoid the cellar for a second year running. The Big Red currently sits one game ahead of Brown in the league standings. Rachel D'Epagnier only played one set in Cornell's most recent contest, a five-set win over Harvard, but is one of the leaders for both the offense and defense. At .286, D'Epagnier is ninth in the Ivy League in hitting percentage and also ranks second in the conference in blocks, with 1.14 per set. The defense is solid, with 18.50 digs per set putting them ninth in the nation. Risa Ka'awa averages exactly 5.00 per set to help the cause. Still, it's the offense that causes the problems for the Big Red, who rank last in the league in both assists and kills per set. Kelly Marble (2.53 kills per set) and Madeleine Przybyl (2.47) will try to reverse that trend in the season finale.
A Chance at History
Dani Shepherd has already had one of the great defensive seasons in Quaker history, but the sophomore will have two more games to further etch her name in the Penn record books. Shepherd, averaging 6.37 digs per set (third in the nation), has racked up 548 on the season, and as of right now has the third-most in a season in Penn history:
607 ... Madison Wojciechowski (2009)
566 ... Madison Wojciechowski (2010)
548 ... Dani Shepherd (2011)
511 ... Madison Wojciechowski (2008)
457 ... Madison Wojciechowski (2007)
With 41 versus Alabama, and later 45 against Harvard, Shepherd has also set the top two single-game marks at Penn:
45 ... Dani Shepherd (10/1/11 vs. Harvard)
41 ... Dani Shepherd (9/10/11 vs. Alabama)
40 ... Madison Wojciechowski (11/1/08 vs. Cornell)
39 ... Madison Wojciechowski (11/13/09 vs. Harvard)
38 ... Cara Thomason (10/31/04 vs. Princeton)
With her leading the way, the Quakers are third in the nation this season in digs per set (18.78), trailing only Miami (FL) with 18.86 and Yale at 19.00.
Slamming the Door
Last time out at Brown, the Quakers hit .385 in the fourth set to close out the Bears, 3-1. The .385 mark was the second-highest percentage for a set the team has recorded in Ivy League play and the fourth-highest overall. Of the top four, three have now occurred in sets that closed out victories for the team. The top four performances for the season are:
.448 in 1st set versus La Salle (won 3-0)
.400 in 5th set versus Dartmouth (won 3-2)
.387 in 4th set versus UMBC (won 3-1)
.385 in 4th set versus Brown (won 3-1)
Saturday's game with Cornell will be the final match of Logan Johnson's career in the Red and Blue. The senior co-captain enters this weekend having played in a total of 90 matches and 254 sets. From her defensive specialist position on the back row, Johnson has racked up 408 digs as a Quaker and has been particularly effective in the service game, where she has accrued 22 aces. Logan will graduate in the spring from the College of Arts and Sciences.