H alfway home.
With seven games gone and seven games left in Ivy League play, Penn women’s basketball team is halfway home.
It’s new. Surreal. Kind of scary.
But most of all, it’s exciting.
It’s exciting because the pieces are there. The talent is there: Bigs that can block and box out with Kara Bonenberger and Sydney Stipanovich headlining the group, a smothering defense and guards that can shoot lights out. Just ask Yale and Brown about junior guard Renee Busch .
And if all else fails, there is a pure baller in senior guard Alyssa Baron, who keeps moving up the Ivy League all-time scoring list.
But now comes the hard part.
Now the Quakers are at the top and teams are gunning for them.
Cornell is a pain. Yale is going to be pissed after Friday’s defeat at the Palestra. After three straight years at number two, Harvard won’t go down nearly as easy at home.
But don’t forget, there is the dynasty that coach Courtney Banghart has built over the past seven years at Princeton, which has won each of the past four Ivy League titles.
And it was those Tigers that provided Penn with its only blemish so far in Ivy play.
“I thought [when] we came in, we were definitely equal talent,” senior captain Meghan McCullough said after the loss to Princeton. “They kind of gave it to us. We didn’t come mentally prepared so obviously it was a larger gap.
“We think we can compete with them. We are just as good as them.”
The idea that the Red and Blue can compete with Princeton shows how much they have grown over the past four years — both literally and figuratively — with the young and dominant frontcourt being a main factor in Penn’s success this year.
And while on the court, coach Mike McLaughlin is about as mild-mannered as they come, he remembers well the program that he had to rebuild, with which he won just two games during his first season four years ago. You know he has his Penn squad focused on each week ready to take on the league one more time.
“The girls know that in the Ivy League anyone can beat anyone at any given time; that’s very clear coming from us,” McLaughlin said. “But they know that, they’ve seen that and they’ve been on both sides of that, so I don’t think that will be an issue at all.”
The Quakers are in unchartered territory. They control their own destiny. You can insert in whichever of the other sports cliches you want.
All I know is that this four-year turnaround is very nearly complete.
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