First place is on the line.
Penn women’s basketball heads up to Cambridge on Friday for a battle with Harvard for first place in the Ivy League, followed by a date with last-place Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H.
The Quakers (16-5, 6-1 Ivy) are on their second eight-game winning streak of the year, having swept each of their last three Ivy weekends. The most recent weekend sweep came at home against Yale and Brown in convincing fashion.
But the Crimson (17-5, 7-1) pose a major threat to the Red and Blue. Harvard has won four straight Ivy matchups and is looking for revenge against Penn, which beat down the Crimson, 67-38, when the two squads met in early February.
“It’s going to be a battle,” coach Mike McLaughlin said to Penn Athletics. “We’re expecting to go out there and compete [and] to challenge ourselves.
“It should be a great game, great atmosphere and our team is really looking forward to it.”
Harvard is led by senior guard Christine Clark , who leads the team in scoring at 16.7 points per game. Clark was a major part of Harvard’s lone victory over Penn last season, scoring 18 points in a 67-54 win up in Cambridge.
The Crimson also have a dynamic post presence in junior forward Temi Fagbenle . But Penn will be able to match her with its freshman frontcourt star - center Sydney Stipanovich .
Stipanovich broke Penn’s program record for blocks in a season last weekend, tallying 13 blocks to raise her season total to 82. The freshman center is third in the NCAA with 3.90 blocks per game, and she held Fagbenle in check during the two squads’ first meeting.
But the weekend does not stop with the first-place duel.
While Harvard takes on the other Ivy squad tied for first place - Princeton - Penn travels to Dartmouth (3-19, 0-8) to take on a fledgling Big Green squad.
Dartmouth has been unable to pick up a win in eight tries against Ivy foes, including a 71-53 loss at the Palestra on Jan. 31.
Belle Koclanes , Dartmouth’s first-year coach, has only two seniors on her roster and has received some impressive performances from her freshman class, especially Fanni Szabo .
Szabo leads all Ivy freshmen with 15 points per game and will have to be a focus for Penn’s defense, which leads the Ancient Eight, giving up just 57.2 points per contest.
This weekend will have significant Ivy title implications moving forward. With Harvard playing its final games against Princeton and Penn, the Crimson have the opportunity to take a significant lead over the two squads if they can hold court in Cambridge.
But it will be tough for Harvard to sweep the Quakers and Tigers, who have the top defense and offense in the Ivy League, respectively.
So on Friday, the Ivy season begins to come to a close. And it all starts with Penn and Harvard.