One year later, Mother Nature still loves wreaking havoc in the days leading up to a game between Penn and Yale.
Exactly a year ago this week, when Penn women’s basketball made the journey to New Haven, Conn., three feet of snow fell on Yale’s campus. The elements forced the game to be rescheduled multiple times, as well as a hotel evacuation at 4 a.m. and ultimately a change in venue.
This year, with snow hitting the Eastern Seaboard earlier in the week, the Bulldogs (10-10, 4-2 Ivy) arrived in Philadelphia on Wednesday, a night earlier than usual. Luckily, both teams will avoid off-court drama, and the weather shouldn’t dampen the narrative and importance of Friday’s game.
Within the Ivy League, it’s very much a four-team race, as only one game separates Yale, Penn, Princeton and Harvard. The Red and Blue (14-5, 4-1) will have to play their best if they hope to win and remain within striking distance.
Unfortunately for the Quakers, Yale has been Penn’s kryptonite in recent years. The current group of seniors has only beaten coach Chris Gobrecht’s squad once in the past three years and dropped both contests last season.
In their last matchup, Red and Blue spotted the Elis a 19-point lead, and the team couldn’t overcome the hole it dug for itself.
“I think it’s important [to get out to a good start], like every game,” junior forward Katy Allen said. “Especially with Yale, if we come out stronger, it takes away their momentum. They’re a team that relies heavily on momentum. When they start well, their whole night tends to go well.”
The Elis, who are coming off a loss to Harvard last weekend, have some of the best guard play in the Ancient Eight. Senior Janna Graf and junior Sarah Halejian have averaged 10.2 and 15.6 points per game, respectively, and each can single-handedly keep Yale in the game.
“I think Halejian is going to score just because of her natural ability, when she’s got the ball in her hands she can create her own shot,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “They got two of the better guards in the league, for sure.”
By opening up the lanes and drawing the attention of defenders, Yale’s guards are some of the league’s best at creating space and open shots for their teammates.
As a result, it will be particularly important for Penn, a team that is tops in the Ivies in points allowed per game, opponents’ field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage allowed, to limit the effectiveness of the Elis’ guards.
“They’ve played a lot of minutes at Yale, [have] good composure, so we’re really going to have to work hard,” McLaughlin added. “It’s one of those things where we’re going to have to make them work for what they get.”
No matter what happens on Friday, the Quakers won’t be able to let up on Saturday as they host Brown (8-12, 2-4), a team capable of putting the Quakers on upset alert. The game will mark Penn women’s basketball’s annual pink game to raise awareness for breast cancer .
But first the Quakers must focus their attention on Yale.
“It’s really ironic, we spent three days last year trying to play that game at Yale … and now the coin is flipped a little bit,” McLaughlin said.
Snow or not, with an Ivy title on the line, the Red and Blue will have to hope the coin lands in their favor.