When the women’s basketball season tips off at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Daskalakis Athletic Center against Drexel, one program is trying to forget its past, and the other is trying to build upon it.
The Quakers are transitioning from a 9-19 season, and they are hoping to begin a winning tradition in their first game under new coach Mike McLaughlin. The Dragons, on the other hand, enter the game as defending Colonial Athletic Association champions and are the pre-season favorites to repeat.
Penn heads into the game filled with question marks on the offensive end after losing its top three scorers from last season. Drexel has an established offense led by senior forward Gabriela Marignean, who was third in the country in scoring last season (23.2 ppg).
McLaughlin feels the Quakers’ turnover can be to their advantage at the opening horn.
“Any set that we are going to use, there is a good chance [the Dragons] have not seen the set yet,” he said. “So if we execute well and clean, we are hoping to get off some quality shots right from the beginning.”
With such an unknown factor coming into their stadium, the Dragons think the opening minutes will be critical to understanding who the Red and Blue have become.
“I am really unsure of what their style is right now,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said.
Though the Quakers may have a slight advantage since they have tape on Drexel from last year, the dynamic duo of Marignean and sophomore guard Kamile Nacickaite still will be tough to contain.
Marignean has had several field days against the Quakers, averaging nearly 19 points and eight rebounds in her career against Penn. But the Quakers can’t just focus on her. Nacickaite, who lead the team last season with a .402 shooting percentage from behind the arc, had her best collegiate game last year notching a career-high 17 points against Penn. McLaughlin said.
“She is able to give all of them opportunities because when we double down, as we have to, she is able to kick it out for the three,” McLaughlin said. “And we want to play smart on Gaby so that she can’t drive and kick it all the time for open threes.”
Penn’s offense will be lead by senior captain and returning starting guard Sarah Bucar, who averages 11 points in twocareer games against Drexel — six points above her career scoring average.
“I think last year we backed off of her a little and she was able to succeed because she comes into the game with such a high energy level,” Dillon said. “So we will put our better defensive guard on her and focus on her tendencies and just contain and contend on every possession.”
Just because the Quakers enter as underdogs, considering the immense passion in an inner-city game, anything can happen.
“Obviously with it being a city game, it is going to be a battle,” Dillon said. “These girls know each other so well off the court so, when they step on the court with each other, emotions run high. As always, it is going to be very competitive.”
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