Weekend Wrap: On the road at Princeton

While football may have had the most dramatic finish in Princeton over the weekend, it was not the only Penn squad to take on the Tigers. Check Weekend Wrap for a review of the Quakers' performances in other arenas, including a few squads that finished their seasons against Princeton.

Field Hockey
Even in a strong year for Penn field hockey, the Red and Blue were not likely to fair well against No. 2 Princeton. The Tigers outscored their Ivy opponents 45-1 on the year and recorded six league wins by a margin of five goals or more. With this in mind, Quakers’ 7-0 defeat should not come as a surprise to anyone. Princeton’s victory secured its eighth consecutive league title.

That said, Penn (9-8, 3-4 Ivy) can certainly celebrate finishing above .500 for the first time since 2006 — one of several indications that this program is on the rise.

Men's Soccer
Despite holding off the Tigers for the first half an hour of play, the Penn men’s soccer team collapsed once again in a 3-0 loss at Princeton. With a last-place finish on the horizon, the Quakers (2-13, 0-6 Ivy) should start the rebuilding process now and start thinking about how the team can change its fortunes for next season.

Women's Soccer
As Penn women’s soccer coach Darren Ambrose put it, “Speed kills.” The Quakers found this out in a big way this weekend against Princeton, as they fell to the Tigers, 4-2, on the road. Princeton’s Jen Hoy demonstrated why she deserves the Ivy League Player of the Year award, using her speed to create breakaways on multiple occasions, despite double and triple-teams by Penn’s defense. When the Quakers swarmed her, Hoy fed to Lauren Lazo, who recorded a hat trick on the evening.

To their credit, the Red and Blue (9-6-1, 5-2 Ivy) did not go down without a fight. Late in the second half, Clara Midgley added two goals in nine minutes to make the game 3-2. However, the Tigers ultimately added one more score and walked away with a win as well as the league championship.

Volleyball
With Yale steamrolling the Ivy standings, it’s a race to second place for Penn volleyball. Despite knotting the match at 1-1 at one point, the squad failed to slow down the Bulldogs (16-5, 12-0 Ivy) and lost by a final of 3-1 Friday night at the Palestra. However, the Quakers (13-10, 8-4) turned around Saturday to defeat Brown, 3-1, on Senior Night. The Red and Blue currently sit at third in the Ivy League behind Yale and Princeton (12-10, 9-3) with two matches remaining.

Has Yale already ended the Quakers’ volleyball season?

Last weekend, the Penn volleyball team beat Princeton. Now what?

The Quakers are tied with Harvard for third place in the Ivy League Standings, one game behind Princeton and three games behind undefeated defending champion Yale. Now beginning its second pass through the Ivy gauntlet, Penn not only must win but has to do what all teams hate doing: Hope its opponents will lose.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be a very realistic proposal. Not only has Yale yet to lose a single game to an Ivy opponent, they have only lost two sets in the Ivy season — one to Brown and one to Dartmouth, the two teams tied for last place in the Ivy League rankings. The Bulldogs are opportunistic and excel against competitive teams that have given them problems in the past, like Princeton. Their offense thrives, even against strong defensive back rows like Penn, and is ranked third in the nation in both kills and assists per set.

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Dani Shepherd alone atop Division I

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Junior Dani Shepherd currently leads the Division I standings in digs per set. After an impressive weekend against Princeton and Towson, she is now boasting 6.61 digs/sets, which will extend her already comfortable lead.

Shepherd was picked for the first-team All-Ivy last season and finished last season third in the nation in digs per set.

She is the only Ivy player in the top 50 in this category, and she is just one aspect of the impressive defense the Quakers have mustered up so far this season. Despite losing their first Ivy League match of the season, Penn had a strong defensive showing, posting 10 blocks and 118 digs in the five-set match.

Kerry Carr on three-peating and Al Bagnoli

I was browsing through the great Dave Zeitlin's Penn Gazette blog this afternoon when I stumbled across this little gem from volleyball coach Kerry Carr. Penn volleyball, with a little less fanfare, is in the same unique position as the football team in that they're both going for third consecutive titles this fall. Carr said she and Bagnoli have joked about it:

Penn Gazette: Do you ever talk to Al Bagnoli about the challenges of repeating and going for three in a row because you guys are in the same boat now, just as you were in the early part of the 2000s?

Kerry Carr: Yeah, and I also talked to [ex-Penn basketball coach Fran] Dunphy back in the day because he was the master at repeating. With Coach Bagnoli, we more joke about it because it’s funny that people think that because you won last year, this year you will win too. Both of us are faced with a very young team this year with some key starters gone. We just know how much work is ahead of us to do the same thing. The Ivy League championship is always the goal but we have so many little things to accomplish first.

Note the shoutout to Dunphy. It's an interesting perspective because so many people expect Penn football to be so good this year after not losing an Ivy game in two seasons. But Saturday's loss was a bit of a wake-up call — both to the fans and the players — that it's not so easy.

The real expert on the topic of repeat championships? Women's lacrosse coach Karin Corbett. She's won five straight.

Mid-Monday Mix: Use your head

A new year and a new feature on the Buzz: I'm calling it Mid-Monday Mix. Every Monday, sometime in the early afternoon and barring any additional hurricanes, I'll bring you a mix of notes and notables from the weekend that was:

Rundown: I took in parts of both the men's and women's soccer games at Rhodes last night. Both teams put on a show for a pretty sizable crowd, by Rhodes standards.

  • Women's soccer opened their season with two clean sheets for the first time since 1998, winning 3-0 over UMBC Friday and 2-0 over Delaware Sunday night. Both goals last night were of the cranial variety, coming off the heads of seniors Ursula Lopez-Palm and Marin McDermott.
  • The men also remained undefeated, notching a 5-1 rout of St. Joe's earlier in the evening. They beat La Salle 2-0 on Friday as well. Freshman Duke Lacroix took home Ivy Rookie of the Week honors with two goals Sunday night. He also takes home Name of the Week honors for having an awesome name.
  • Volleyball hosted their annual Big 5 tournament, posting wins against Temple and La Salle, but ultimately fell to Villanova, 3-1. They did the same thing last year, lasting an extra set against the Wildcats.
  • Field Hockey kicked off it's second season under coach Colleen Quinn Fink, looking to shake off a disastrous 2010. The opening to 2011 didn't look too good either: a 7-0 loss to American.
  • Football season is 12 days away. The Quakers apparently had a brief respite from their two-a-days, getting to relax in the pool with some free swim this weekend.

Weekend win: The honor for this weekend's win goes to M. Soccer coach Rudy Fuller, who posted his 100th career 'W' for Penn soccer with a 2-0 shutout of La Salle. Fuller is starting his 14th year with Penn.

Multimedia: Check out the aforementioned goals off the heads of Lopez-Palm and McDermott:

Extra, Extra: Here's a picture of an adorable dog reading The DP, courtesy of our managing editor Unnati Dass. You should do the same. We resume normal production Wednesday when classes begin!

Dog

This Week on 33rd Street: Dec. 3rd

We're back with another edition of This Week on 33rd Street. Joining me this week is senior staff writer Jennifer Scuteri, as we discuss men's and women's hoops, swimming, volleyball, Billy Ragone, and my futile attempts to participate in no-shave November.

Volleyball playoff at Yale

After a thrilling 5-set win over Princeton yesterday to secure a share of the Ivy volleyball title, Penn also earned a shot at returning to the NCAA tourney for the second straight year. But since the Quakers tied Yale, they'll have a playoff match in New Haven, Conn., Sunday.

The Quakers have amassed a 0.727 (8-3) winning percentage at home this season, while going 0.533 (8-7) on the road, including a difficult California road trip early in the season. They beat Yale at the Palestra, and lost in New Haven. So why will the Quakers have to travel to Yale, where they statistically are much worse off?

According to Sarah Finney, assistant director of communications and championships at the Ivy League office, the conference rules stipulate that "the match will take place at the home site of the top-seeded team. The top-seeded team is determined by a formula which, in this year's case, makes Yale the top-seed due to the fact that Yale's win over Penn was in three sets and Penn's win over yale was in four sets."

In previous years, the Ivy Manual stipulated that the playoff game would be at a neutral, preferably Ivy League site, though the rules have changed. Finney said that due to a 4-team playoff at a neutral site in 2004, crowds were very low, and the league coaches proposed a change in the rules to help bring out more crowds to the potential playoffs. The proposal went through the League's legislative process and was approved by the Ancient Eight's athletic directors.

Taking on Army

I realize I'm entering Noah's territory a little, but he's traveling back from Florida to Philadelphia today.

Anyway, today the NCAA announced the Volleyball Tournament bracket, and Penn will face Army Friday at University Park, Pa. Although it is a 64-team tournament (kind of) like the Men's Basketball Tournament, only 16 teams are ranked. Penn didn't get one of those seeds. In fact, they're in No. 1 Penn State's sub regional, hence they're playing at the Nittany Lions' home gym. If the Quakers were to beat the 26-5 Black Knights, they would then take on Penn State (32-0) who  just won its 96th consecutive match (it has also won 72 matches in a row at home).

But first up are the Black Knights, who are in their first ever Volleyball Tournament as Patriot League champions. Freshman Ariana Mankus swept the Patriot League Player and Rookie of the Year awards.

Penn has made the NCAA Tournament three previous times, always losing in the first round. The most recent loss was a 3-1 decision to Pittsburgh in 2003, coincidentally held in University Park as well.

Another volleyball record

The volleyball team's dominance has been well-documented here on The Buzz, but here's one more interesting tidbit on just how historic this season was.

The All-Ivy awards were announced this week, and Penn set yet another record with FOUR first team selections, becoming the first team ever to accomplish that feat. Ivy League Player of the Year Elizabeth Semmens was a unanimous selection, as was setter and Ivy assists leader Megan Tryon. Penn's all-time single season and career digs leader, Madison Wojciechowski also got the nod for first team, and Rookie of the Year Lauren Martin became the first freshman in four years to earn the honor. Current Yale senior Alexis Crusey did so, and this year she became just the fifth player to earn a first team selection for all four seasons. Martin could very well be on her way to becoming the sixth.

The Quakers are waiting anxiously for this Sunday's NCAA tournament selection show, when they'll find out their first-round opponent. Last year Yale defeated Albany before being trounced by a dominant Penn State team. Penn will most likely be playing at Penn State, but it hopes to face a beatable opponent before running into the Nittany Lions.

Volleyball on the verge

The volleyball team got a bit of luck and made a bit of its own today, and in the end they're going to sleep as at least the co-Ivy champs. But we all know it's just a matter of time before it's all theirs.

Second-place Yale lost to Dartmouth while Penn was battling Cornell this afternoon. The Quakers were down 2-0 to a pumped up Big Red team playing on senior night, and were even on the verge of being swept when it was 23-20 in the third set. They clawed back miraculously to win that set 25-23 and went on to defeat Cornell in five games.

The Bulldogs' loss dropped them to 8-3 in the Ivy League, and with just three games remaining Penn (20-4, 11-0 Ivy) has to win just one of its next three (all at the Palestra) to be the outright Ivy champs. I doubt I'll ever say this again, but I really wish I could've been in Ithaca tonight. It sounds like it was an absolutely amazing game. Chances are the team didn't even know that Yale had lost, since the games were played at the same time. So they fought furiously to stay undefeated knowing that even with a loss they still controlled their own destiny toward being crowned the victors, and it certainly paid off. It has truly been a special season for this team. Their first chance to clinch the outright title is next Friday the 13th against Harvard. And if the Quakers win and the heavens are truly on Penn's side (despite the ominous date), then the next day Penn football will also beat Harvard to clinch a share of the title.

Check out Monday's DP for complete coverage of today's game and for reaction from Coach Kerry Carr and some players.

After the jump, some more notes on this year.