There’s something different about the upcoming road trip for the Penn women’s basketball team.
For the first time since 2006, the Quakers (9-8, 2-1 Ivy) will be going into this weekend’s games with a winning Ivy record.
Penn will head north this weekend to face Yale and Brown in its second road trip of the Ivy season. Because of the coming winter storm, the game time at Yale has been moved to 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon and Saturday’s game at Brown has been moved to Sunday at noon.
Come rain or shine, the Quakers know they’ll be challenged with aggressive play by the Bulldogs (6-12, 1-3) and Bears (7-11, 1-3).
“Yale’s going to put a lot of pressure on the ball and we need to be able to reorganize ourselves if need be,” coach Mike McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring his Quakers are ready for the Elis’ and Bears’ onslaught.
In practice on Wednesday, the five starters were forced to run plays against six defenders to simulate the pressure they’ll feel this weekend.
In Penn’s Ivy sweep against Cornell and Columbia last weekend, the Quakers faced similarly aggressive teams.
“Both teams pressured us, particularly Columbia, and I think we handled it really well,” McLaughlin said. “I think we’re trying to do it based on being aggressive first, let them not be passive.”
Penn’s defense has been the hallmark of its play so far this season, ranking second in the league in scoring defense.
But the Quakers will face another strong defensive team when they head to Providence for Sunday afternoon’s game against Brown.
The Bears rank just behind the Quakers in points allowed and hold their opponents to 25.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc, 12th in all of Division I.
“Our team really thrives from our defense,” junior Courtney Wilson said. “We want to use our defense to get as much offense as possible.”
Wilson is among the team’s defensive leaders. She ranks second in the league in blocked shots, behind only fellow Quakers sophomore Kara Bonenberger.
“Coach at the beginning of the season was saying how I needed to step up, how I needed to be a bigger presence in the lane, whether it’s taking charges or blocking shots or getting rebounds,” Wilson said. “I’m 6-foot-3, so I’ve got to use my height somehow to block shots.”
Last season, the Quakers’ only Ivy sweep came at Yale and Brown.
Junior Alyssa Baron was the leading scorer in both games back then, but this time she’ll have reinforcements.
The Quakers showed off their depth last weekend, as plenty of players stepped up to take the pressure off Baron, who only scored 17 combined points.
“I think some of the kids are getting a little bit more confidence, a little bit more experienced and being more aggressive and making shots,” McLaughlin said.
“We’re just trying to remain as aggressive as possible and try to stay off of the half court, try to pick the pace up and get up and down the court.”
Make no mistake, Baron is still a threat for opponents to key on. Baron is in the top 15 in the Ancient Eight in 12 different offensive categories.
While going into the weekend with a winning record is a confidence booster for the Quakers, the question now is whether or not they can maintain it.