This is the first of a two-part examination of how Penn’s winter sports stack up midway throug the 2013-14 season.
MVP: Sydney Stipanovich
As a four-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week, a Co-Ivy League Player of the Week and a Big 5 Player of the Week, Stipanovich, a freshman center, is on track to become one Penn’s most decorated freshmen ever.
She recorded two double-doubles in her first two varsity starts against Temple and NJIT. The star center is an unstoppable shot-blocker — if she continues to improve her play she could very well better her program record for most blocks in a game.
Strengths: The Quakers have become a defensive force in the 2013-2014 season, holding their opponents to under 55 points in seven of their 10 wins this season. Penn’s dominance comes from its depth of talent, ranging from veterans such as senior guard Alyssa Baron, to newbies like Stipanovich. The pair leads the team in defensive rebounds with 77 and 78, respectively. The Red and Blue’s defensive success is the reason behind their 10-5 record, which includes the most nonconference wins in program history.
Weaknesses: The Red and Blue have only seen one conference foe, Princeton, thus far in the season. In a 84-53 loss, the Quakers failed to make three-pointers as consistently as the Tigers, shooting 5-for-19 from beyond the arc. Developing the three-ball will be key for Penn as it looks ahead to its next six weekends of Ivy play.
MVP: Jack Maine
A co-captain as a junior, Maine has truly come into his own this season as one of the Quakers’ emotional leaders. On the court, Maine has been stellar, posting a 5-2 record while solidifying the bottom of Penn’s lineup. His courage and heart were best on display this Monday, as his comeback from a 2-0 deficit against Princeton’s Ben Leizman sparked the Quakers’ upset win over the Tigers.
STRENGTHS: The Quakers seem to be unstoppable when home-court advantage is on their side. Penn has defeated No. 11 Williams, No. 19 George Washington and No. 7 Princeton, all at home. The Red and Blue do not let their underdog status discourage them when they play at the Ringe Courts, a trend that could potentially continue, as they are slated to face No. 3 Yale on Feb. 1.
WEAKNESSES: In nearly all of their matches, Penn gets wins low down on the ladder and then loses matches in the top two or three spots. Perhaps this is a testament to the relative lack of depth of the Quakers’ opponents. However, if the Quakers want to have close matches swing their way, the players in the top two spots on the ladder — whoever they may be — need to come through.
MVP: Lorenzo Thomas
A junior, Thomas has become the backbone of Penn wrestling in the 2013-2014 season through his consistent performances in the 165-pound weightclass. Heading into the final stretch of conference play, Thomas has a personal record of 17-6. Though Thomas is 0-4 against opponents ranked in the top 20 of his weightclass, he leads the team with 30 points scored.
STRENGTHS: The Quakers saw some of the best competition that the country has to offer at the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1-2 and their dual against Nebraska on Jan. 11. Despite the losses along the way in the tournament and the dual, the experience gained by the young team will serve it well as it looks ahead to conference competition.
WEAKNESSES: The Red and Blue must fight off injury and fatigue to obtain a favorable finish in the EIWA conference this year. Many of the wrestlers who were on heavy rotation in duals in the first half of the season, such as Caleb Richardson and Andrew Lenzi, have been absent from the mats recently. In order to win close duals in the second half of the season, Penn must win the battle against bodily breakdown and maintain its depth.
MVP: Courtney Jones
Jones has turned in an outstanding series of performances at the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Last year, Penn went 12-5 at that position. The senior co-captain has managed to top even that lofty standard, going 6-1 in her seven matches this season. It has been a swift ascendance for Jones, which makes it hard to believe that she was playing in the eighth spot as recently as last year.
STRENGTHS: It used to be that the top spot on the ladder was troublesome for the Quakers against elite competition. No more. Anaka Alankamony and Yan Xin Tan have combined to go 4-3 from that slot this season, as the Red and Blue seem to have finally found the top-to-bottom lineup consistency they need to contend for the Howe Cup.
WEAKNESSES: The major damper on Penn’s potential championship parade is the fact that the Quakers have already lost to the nation’s top-two teams, Harvard and Trinity. In a season marked by otherwise complete and utter domination, the 6-3 losses to the Crimson and Bantams show that the Red and Blue are not all the way there yet.