Arlisa WilliamsThank you to everyone who came out this weekend to support us at the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Invitational which included Cleveland State, Colgate and, of course, UPenn. It was a competitive weekend for us and the fans in the stands helped us make it through. The personal fans provided by the Gisolfi’s also helped.

Everyone would agree we could have used a few more fans on the gym floor as the historic Palestra Arena does not have air conditioning. It was a hot weekend weather-wise and even hotter on the court (at one point reaching 90 degrees). It made for some pretty intense volleyball.

As for the matches, we started out the weekend pretty slowly against Cleveland State University. To be honest, I was a little concerned after dropping the first match on Friday night in three. Even in the loss, we had some bright spots. Lauren Saar and Danielle White hit .440 and .368 respectively. That’s really good! We averaged 18.33 digs a set, with MacKenzie Simpson leading the charge with 14. Also really good! Those are the positives from the stat line, but I think the biggest takeaway from the loss is that we have to step on the court with a winner’s mentality every time we take the floor. When we do that, it’s a good thing!

That winner’s mentality surfaced on Saturday. We defeated a scrappy Colgate team, who was picked second in the Patriot League pre-season poll, in three (25-14, 25-18, 25-18). We played aggressively and never let them in the match. It was a sweet, sweet victory to start the day.

We had a long break that afternoon and sent the players back to the hotel to cool down. I went shopping for something that wouldn’t stick to me and then scouted Penn. We met up with the team for a pre-game meal. If you haven’t been to Angelino’s, I recommend you give it a try. The portion sizes are enough for two meals and the food was delicious. It was awesome hearing the players relaxed and laughing as we got ready to take on Penn.

We headed to the gym fueled and in high spirits, and took that winner’s mentality one step further. We opened up the first set 12-4 and sailed on to a three set victory over the Quakers. Penn played hard and challenged us to the finish getting a little closer in each set (25-17, 25-20, 25-23), but the Hoyas showed true grit and held on for the sweep.

The victories on Saturday meant that we were the 2014 Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Invitational champions! Lauren Saar was named the tournament MVP and Danielle White joined her on the All-Tournament Team. However, the awards should go to everyone in the group. Without all of our players pushing each other in practice daily and supporting each other when the going gets tough, we would not have the success that we have had.

As sweet as this weekend was, it’s time for us to turn the page. We get ready to take on the Liberty Flames tonight in our home opener at McDonough Gym. Bringing that winning mentality to the table and coming out fast are going to be big themes as we take the floor. Liberty is a seasoned team that runs a fast and varied offense. We’ll need our “A” game and your support as we try to light up the Flames. We hope to see you tonight at 7 p.m.

Arlisa Williams

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