For the two seniors on the Penn women’s basketball team, this weekend will be their goodbye to the Cathedral.
The Quakers (10-13, 3-6 Ivy) take on Dartmouth (4-19, 2-7) Friday and Harvard (13-10, 6-3) Saturday in their last games at the Palestra this season.
“Dartmouth is big,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We really have to rebound the ball well against them — we did the first time, and that will be the key to the game this time.”
The last contest against the Big Green required overtime, but ended, 73-63, in favor of the Quakers.
The Big Green’s three tallest, Tia Dawson, Milica Toskovic and Sasha Dosenko, all 6-foot-2 or taller, combined for 31 of the team’s 63 points. Their efforts allowed Dartmouth to dominate scoring in the paint, 21-12.
The greater challenge, however, will be against Harvard Saturday. The Red and Blue fell to the Crimson, 66-52, in Boston earlier this month.
“Harvard’s different; they can really score the ball,” McLaughlin explained. “The key to Harvard is Brogan Berry. We’ll have to contain her. She’s a tough matchup for anyone.”
Berry, the senior who runs the point for Harvard, dropped 26 against the Quakers in their first meeting this year. Yet, she is only a single piece of Harvard’s offensive dominance.
In addition to Berry, the Crimson have two top-10 Ivy League scorers in sophomore Christine Clark and junior Victoria Lippert.
Clark is a slasher who likes to go by her defender to get to the rim or pull up for a mid-range jumper. Lippert is the Ivy League’s third best overall three-point shooter.
Still, McLaughlin knows that to stop the 16-game losing streak to the Crimson, his team must stop Berry first, and the Quakers are up for the challenge.
For the team’s two seniors, Jourdan Banks and Jess Knapp, it will be a bittersweet day.
“It’s like the end to a long journey,” Banks explained. “It’s emotional because we’ve spent countless hours in this gym. But what I want for myself, Jess and the team is to end this year on a good note.”
It’s certainly been a journey for Banks and Knapp, who both missed their freshman seasons due to injury. The next year, they struggled through a 2-26 season, capturing one Ivy League win at Dartmouth in the second to last game of the season.
Since then, they have been leaders in the team’s progress, improving to 11-17 last season. The Red and Blue were well on their way to doing even better this year until Knapp tore two ligaments in her left knee.
The loss of Knapp emphasized the importance of her stand-out defense and rebounding. Before her injury against San Diego State in late December, the Quakers were 7-2 overall. Knapp’s injury helped San Diego State win that game, and tossed the Quakers into a six-game losing streak.
Knapp’s co-captain, Banks, has been the embodiment of consistency throughout her career. She has been reliable in her shooting ability and has competed in 70 games in her career, despite missing her freshman season.
Banks has been there for her team on the court, but more importantly, she has been there off the court. She has been referred to as the “team mom” for her caring attitude towards her teammates and especially younger players.
There are few who have given the team what Knapp and Banks have provided. This weekend, against Harvard, they will bid farewell to the Palestra.